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Paschal Epistle of Bishop Stefan

7 April 2017

Ukaz of Bishop Stefan about the Eucharistic Communion with Archbishop Andronik

4 April 2017

Announcement of the Restoration of the Eucharistic Communion between Bishop Stefan and Archbishop Andronik

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5 March 2017

Sermon on the Sunday of Orthodoxy

26 November 2016

Announcement to all Clerics and Faithful of the North American Diocese

8 November 2016

The Response to the Edict of the Russian True Orthodox Church

 

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MOTHER CHURCH?

      On the 13th of July, 2016, I received a letter from the chancellory of the RTOC Synod of Bishops concerning our autonomy Abroad.

      Let us examine the quote cited in the text of this letter:  “Our Church Abroad, as is known, is a part of the Russian Mother-Church, its free part.  Although we, according to the testament of the ever-memorable Metropolitan Anastasy, have no interaction with the soviet patriarchate, we never severed from our Russian Church, our Mother-Church.” (“Orthodox Rus’”. #21, 1976).

      On the basis of the aforementioned thought, the writers of this letter write: “While abiding in a condition of autonomy you are required to continue to commemorate the name of the Chairman of the Church Synod from which you received your right to autonomy.  Furthermore, you are required to seek our counsel in all external church matters in order that we may come to a common decision”. (underscore is mine).

      Back in February of this year, the RTOC Synod informed me that those of us living abroad will always be under their control:  “Furthermore, autonomy may be revoked by the authority of the kiriarchichal church if its first hierarch violates canon order”.  (Note:  the word “kiriarchichal” means the “ruling” church.. from the Greek work kirie meaning lord).

      By this statement the RTOC Synod announces that they have the right to rule over everyone abroad.  Who gave them this right??

      A certain person asked me an interesting question:  evidently, the RTOC Synod considers itself to be our Mother-Church.  It is one of two things:  either in some manner we ourselves have begun to consider the RTOC to be our “Mother” – or the RTOC Synod itself assumed this title – except I do not remember when and through what resolution??

      In Church canon law the term “Mother-Church” does not exist.  In any case, I have never even encountered the term “Sister-Church”.

      Metropolitan Anastasy had used this expression in order to imply to the faithful that the Church Abroad did not separate from its suffering co-brethren, does not consider itself to be a new jurisdiction, but a part of the persecuted Russian Church, born abroad by the blessing of the Holy Hierarch Patriarch Tikhon and by his Ukaz #362.  Even to this day we still use these words when commemorating our Persecuted Russian Church Brethren.

      I wish to particularly emphasize this:  In Metropolitan Anastasy’s epistle there is mention made of the Russian Church as such – the Local autonomous Church of all the Russian people, and not of one of its separate parts which formed from the Russian Church.  Traditionally these parts of the one Russian Church were considered to be the Church Abroad and the Catacomb Church but never was either of them individually the fullness of the Russian Church as an autocephalous Church.  It was specifically because of this that when the Catacomb Church had no bishops, they (the clergy and the flock) turned to the First-Hierarch of the Church Abroad with a request to receive them under his omophorion and to bless them to commemorate him at divine services in Russia.

      That which has been born does not return to a mother’s womb.  In time the ROCA established itself with its Synod as an independently self-ruling Church abroad.  Metropolitan Anastasy’s expression “never severed” does not at all mean that it must then be administratively subordinate to certain hierarchs from Russia or Ukraine, for example, to hierarchs of the other part of the Russian Church – the Catacomb Church.  “Never severed” refers to our spiritual oneness; to our eucharistical union.  At one time perhaps the expression “mother-church” had been appropriate, but it has now become archival for it no longer reflects reality.

      In the Address-Appeal of the Chairman of the RTOC Synod, Archbishop Tikhon (Pasechnik) to the clergy of ROCA written April 18, 2006, it states:

      “You are not alone because through the aid and efforts of the Church Abroad a True Church has been preserved in Russia, the hierarchs of which have received apostolic succession from the ROCA”.

      Just imagine:  those bishops who received apostolic succession thanks to the ROCA hierarchs, turn around and state:  “now we will be your mother- church and you will be subordinate to us.

      All of this shows that the RTOC Synod uses any words for their benefit; they are passionately attempting to use any means in order to retain control over our Church Abroad.  But concerning those words which were previously said, which now bear witness against them, they are silent.  Why?  When were they sincere in their words to us?  Based on what they are writing now, it appears that in the past they had lied to us only to lure us into their synod, but now they write what is complete contrary to what they said and wrote previously.  This means that then and now they (the RTOC Synod) are being hypocritical.  Then who are they in fact, if it is said:  “satan is the father of lies and you carry out the whims of your father”?  But if they had previously been sincere, then why, despite all their previous documents and promises, do they willfully conduct a public campaign of falsehood and slander?  Does this mean that the RTOC Synod is now not free and is carrying out the will of forces hostile toward the Church?  Does not their hostile campaign against our, in blessed memory Metropolitan Vitaly also bear witness to this? For now I am not asserting, but asking questions.

      We read further the official documents of the RTOC. In the “Statues Governing the RTOC” it states:  “Para.1.  The Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC) is an inexorable part of the local Russian Orthodox Church, self-governing as prescribed in the tenets in accordance with the Resolution of the Most Holy Patriarch, the Holy Synod and the Supreme Church Council of the Russian Church of 7/20 November, 1920, #362”.  Note, a “part” and not “the fullness” and this is written in the primary church document.  Further, in this documents it states:  “Para.4. The Russian True-Orthodox which re-established its canonical hierarcy and church administration through the fraternal support of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) confesses the ROCA and RTOC to be parts of equal status of what once had been an integral local Russian Church.”  Again concerning equivalent in status, but nonetheless parts of the Local Russian Church, of which Metropolitan Anastasy spoke in his Epistle.

      And here is yet another primary document of the RTOC, ratified not by a Synod consisting of three bishops, but by the Holy Sobor – “The Determination of the Holy Sobor concerning dogmatic and ecclesiological foundations of the Russian True-Orthodox Church” where in black and white it is written:  “We have canonical succession from the Catacomb Russian Church and the Russian Orthodox Church abroad as equivalent in status and spiritually united two parts of the True Orthodox Church, which abide in Eucharistic and canonical union despite separate church administrations as was the case with the Holy Martyr Peter of Krutitsa and as was blessed by the last lawful First Hierarch of ROCA, Metropolitan Vitaly.” Does this mean that the blessing of Metropolitan Vitaly is now of no significance, for to them he is now an heretic?

      We read further the words of Archbishop Tikhon (May 11, 2007): “We do not want to force our administrative authority on the abroad, but merely wish to help ROCA restore its independent canonical hierarchy and to continue intercommunion as two independent and equal  parts of a sole Local Russian Church”.

      Also:  in his interview to the New Russian Word on November 14, 2007 Vladika Tikhon repeated twice:  “ROCA’s abiding under our omophorion is temporary” and “we receive them (ROCA) under our omophorion temporarily”…  But now, the Synod decided to replace the word “temporarily” with the word “eternally” : you will always be required to communicate with us… even when you have autonomy and will be “independent and of equal rights”.

      But equality of rights according to them is fiction.  That side which has more bishops (in this case the “kiriarchical” RTOC) will “ratify or reject” all resolutions; in essence it will rule over those whose bishops are in the minority (ROCA).

      Let them consecrate for themselves even 100 bishops.  Such a rule will be political, and not conciliar, and consequently – unlawful.  No matter how many bishops the RTOC Synod may consecrate, it will never  transform from a part of the Russian Church into its fullness!

      And another surprising phenomenon:  In his Address-Appeal to the clergy of the Church Abroad and faithful flock of ROCA dated 5/18 April, 2006, Archbishop Tikhon in advertising his RTOC uses the term “sister-Church” six times. (You can rely on our fraternal interaction as with a Sister-Church, for example).

      Likewise, in the Determination of the RTOC Synod of November 19, 2008, it states:  “We are not setting up our structures in the diaspora; our common goal with the clergy abroad is to preserve the canonical ROCA, help our Sister-Church Abroad…”.

      Yet in their Notification of February 26, 2016, all three members of the Synod signed the opposite: “You in essence have declared yourselves to be an autocephalous sister-church which contradicts the Statutes of the ROCA”. And further on in that Notification:  “We suggest that you re-examine your relationship with the RTOC as a ‘Sister-Church’.  We ask you to correct this mistake…  Otherwise we will be forced to retire you.”

      Because of this threat and to avoid further unpleasantness I am forced to announce to my flock that: Just as we never considered the RTOC under the chairmanship of Archbishop Tikhon to be our “mother”, from henceforth on we will no longer consider it to be our “Sister-Church”.

      I invoke the Lord’s blessing on all.

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

12/25 September, 2016

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AN ADDRESS TO THE FAITHFUL FROM BISHOP STEFAN CONCERNING THE RTOC SYNOD

      At our last meeting on the 29th of June, 2016 at Protopriest Sergei Klestov’s parish, the Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God (in Richmond Hill, New York) with the RTOC Synod bishops, I promised Archbishop Tikhon to address the Omsk clergy who have withdrawn from the Synod with a request that they return under his omophorion if he makes concessions in a positive, peace-making direction. He promised to make the required changes in the article “The Response of the Synod to a series of questions raised in the letters of the Clergy of the Omsk-Siberian diocese”, but unfortunately there have been no changes to the better.

      Archbishop Tikhon did not deign to reinstate the appropriate transparency of Synodal meetings, and will not publish minutes of the meetings; but most importantly, he did not remove a single line of his insulting attacks against the ever-memorable Metropolitan Vitaly.

      I was reprimanded by the members of the Synod for passing judgment not having read the original of this “Response of the Synod”.  I am grateful for this reproach!  Upon reading it I discovered the truth – that the attack against Met. Vitaly is closely connected with a method of the so-called (in Synod circles) “Protopresbyter” Viktor Melehov.

      All three bishops at the last meeting asserted that they do not call Metropolitan Vitaly a heretic.  Is this so??  On page 10 we read:  “The transfer of leadership from the Holy Hierarch Philaret to Metropolitan Vitaly in 1986 did indeed lead to the domination of the pro-Moscow party within the ROCA”.  The Synod evidently does not call him a heretic, but nonetheless continues to levy the unjust accusation against Met. Vitaly that he enabled the ruin of the Church Abroad!

      In other places the Synod uses certain words in furthering their agenda which were supposedly spoken by others, in order to deal a blow to the reputation of the metropolitan.  For what purpose and on whose behalf does the Synod need to carry out such an attack against our former first-hierarch precisely now, 30 years later?  (Note that in the following excerpt it does not indicate who namely became convinced nor does it indicate which two monasteries or even the year in which this happened. This is an extremely shady accusation!):

      “In 1986-1987 two monasteries having become convinced that Metropolitan Vitaly was not sufficiently firm in his resistance against ecumenistical hierarchs within the ROCA, left the ROCA and their clergy were then suspended”. (Note: “was not sufficiently firm” is not an indictment, but an opinion!)

      “Among those suspended was the protopresbyter Viktor Melehov.  He and those clergy with him were suspended for having left their bishops…”

      The 31st canon of the Holy Apostles reads:  “If any Presbyter, condemning his own bishop, draw people aside, and set up another altar, without finding anything wrong with the Bishop in point of piety and righteousness, let him be deposed, on the ground that he is an office-seeker. For he is a tyrant. Let the rest of clergymen be treated likewise, and all those who abet him.  But let the laymen be excommunicated.”

      Let us note on what basis Fr. Viktor abandoned the Church Abroad:  (This is cited word for word in the “Response of the Synod” ):  “He and those clergy with him were suspended for leaving their bishops who allowed their clergy to concelebrate with persons under ROCA anathema (?), ecumenists and new calendarists.*

      Fr. Victor leaves “certain” hierarchs (hierarchs in the plural form) who permitted “certain” clergy to concelebrate “somewhere”, “at some time”, with “certain” clergy, who according to unknown denunciations were ecumenists and new calendarists.

      Fr. Victor did not submit any accusation against his bishop to the ecclesiastical tribunal, and did not expose his bishop through court in point of piety and righteousness because Metropolitan Vitaly is not guilty of anything contrary to piety and truth, nor did he “preach heresy publicly or teach it openly in church”. (As is stated in the 15th canon of the Dual Council).  Fr. Viktor does not even name his own bishop whom he left:  He leaves certain hierarchs (bishops).  But that he demonstrated “zeal for the faith” by this departure – this is fiction.  All three bishops at our meeting, including Archbishop Tikhon, who has elevated Viktor Melehov to the level of “confessor”, confirmed that Metropolitan Vitaly was not a heretic.

      His suspension is valid, and since he dared to serve while under suspension, “is stripped of all clerical honor, is not worthy of either the honor or title of presbyter” (13th Canon of the Dual Council).  The Church deprived him of his rank.

      In the Minutes of the Meeting of the RTOC Synod of Bishops on Friday 14/27 June, 2008, it states that Viktor Melehov was received by the RTOC bishops because Metropolitan Vitaly received him in his “existing rank”.  This should not trouble anyone because in essence the “existing rank” of Viktor in 2001 was that of a “layman”.

      Consequently, we cannot accept Viktor Melehov as Secretary of the Synod and we hope that the Synod will correct this regrettable error.

      We will pray for the hierarchs of the RTOC but we cannot concelebrate with those who dragged a deceased man into their unjust court and who ignore our appeal to reinstate the bright image of our last first-hierarch. We cannot approach God’s altar with those who have fought against their brother.

      A few days ago I received a letter signed by Archbishops Benjamin, Tikhon and Bishop Savvaty in which they insist that I nullify our autonomy and return to their Synod.  I have already written that when Archbishop Tikhon announced that Synodal meetings from henceforth on will be classified and the minutes will be secret (hidden ALSO from me!) that Synod lost its lawfulness. (Should I put my head on the chopping block under these conditions??) The church has ceased to be a church and has become a dictatorship. We cannot “humbly come to terms” with this, because such a church loses both its conciliarity and its freedom!

      The Statutes governing the ROCA adopted in 1956 state: “(paragraph 1) The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is an inexorable part of the local Russian Orthodox Church, temporarily self-governing on conciliar premises until the abolition of the godless authority in Russia.”

      The ROCA was and still is a self-governing part of the Russian Church until the abolition of godless rule and the re-establishment of the local Russian Church.  In the Statutes of the ROCA of 1956 there is no mention even of the autonomy of the Church Abroad.  After the re-establishment of relations between the ROCA and the Catacomb Church, the ROCA did not become subordinate to the Catacomb Church but continues to self-govern independently.  The fact that the hierarchs of the RTOC helped to restore our episcopacy did not deprive the ROCA of independence… just as the consecration of Archbishop Akakios did not nullify the independence of the Serbian Church.  There were no documents signed which would have transferred power to the TROC.  But we were forced to activate our autonomy because of unprecedented, disgraceful and unacceptable changes in the RTOC Synod in the worst direction.

      We will pray that God enlighten them.

 

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

5/18 July, 2016

The Holy Ascetic Martyrs the Grand Duchess Elizabeth
Nun Barbara and those martyred with them

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RADICALIZED ORTHODOXY

-in plain language-

      Many will agree with me that we are living in ‘end times’. Satan knows that he has little time left to see to it that Christ’s promise “Upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt.16:18) - will not be fulfilled. He has corrupted the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, and has now set his eyes on every one of us individually in an attempt to put an end to the True Church of Christ altogether.

      The words of Christ spoken to His disciple Simon Peter apply to us also: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat”. (Luke 22:31) It is important that we take heed to these words in earnest, because this is exactly what is happening right now. And yet we erroneously think that this crumbing of the remnants of the Church is something that ‘is meant to be’ without realizing that it is not! This is the work of satan who is trying to sift us as wheat and scatter us in his heinous attempt to destroy the Church of Christ.

      There have always been ecclesiastical issues to be resolved, and mistakes have been made, but at the present time the greatest stumbling stone (камень предкновения) that is causing a rift amongst clergy and faithful is the question of grace in the Moscow Patriarchate and other ecumenical churches.

      Many have voiced their opinions, but my appeal is not so much concerning the issue of grace itself, as the importance of understanding that an overly enthusiastic desire to convince others of their point of view often leads to fanatical fervency and a radicalization of our faith, which never leads to unity (of our ROCOR remnants.)

      To refresh our memory, let us take a quick look at the issue itself. There are those who say that the M.P. has grace. Does it? I was somewhat surprised by a question from a pious person: “Did the Holy Fathers ever say that heretics have no grace?” The answer is ‘no, they did not’ – but then the opposite is also true: “Did the Holy Fathers ever say that heretics have grace”?

      What gives??

      The ROCOR Church , соборно , never accepted the concept of an ailing church; never considered the MP as having grace, but called it a false church. Saint Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) repeatedly stressed that we must avoid having even any informal contact with the Moscow Patriarchate - He not only called the MP a false church, but a ‘disease’. On Orthodoxy Sunday, February 27, 1972, he gave a sermon in which he said the following: “It is sad that people’s reaction towards the red autocephaly – is far from what it should be. We would think that parishes and Оrthodox Russian people would have walked away en masse from this disease. So far we have not seen this.” Would St. Philaret call a church with Grace a disease??

      Metrop. Vitaly (Ustinov) repeatedly denounced the MP as being outside the True Church . Archbishop Averky, Archimandrite Konstantine (Zaitsev) as well as other theologians of Jordanville, all concur that the MP is a false church without grace. I grew up in the Jordanville monastery, and in all the years (?) I never heard anyone question this fact.

      I will not belabor you or myself by quoting their words or the canons. It is likely that you already know them. It is sufficient to know that the MP fell under an anathema as far back as the times of the Holy Hierarch Patriarch Tikhon and fell under yet another anathema because of ecumenism.

      Furthermore, it must be known that beginning with the betrayal by Metropolitan Sergius, all the hierarchs who were faithful to the holy Church were tortured to death and Stalin replaced them with his agents. These wolves in cassocks undertook to ordain other bishops (Stalin’s appointees) and clergy. Now, sixty years later, it is doubtful that any of the hierarchs within the MP ranks possess apostolic succession.

      The Church is episcopacentric. If an MP bishop is not a bishop, then from whom do the clergy acquire the grace required to perform the sacraments? According to Church canons, a priest, ordained by a bishop who does not possess apostolic succession, is not a priest. The mysteries performed by him are invalid and without grace and in his chalice are not the Body and Blood of Christ God, but the food of demons. (As one of the holy fathers called the false body and blood of Christ.)

      The Church strictly forbids attending services in temples excommunicated from Eucharistic communion or heretics as well as praying jointly with them. In antiquity the Holy Fathers were quite categorical in this regard. Furthermore, the Holy Fathers made no personal judgment of their own, nor did they make any conciliar determination concerning Grace. Such a determination as well as the demise of those fallen away from the Church is not for us to judge – this is God’s matter.

      The most dreadful punishment for a believing Orthodox person is to be excommunicated from Christ, from union with Christ through Holy Communion. It is said, “whosoever will pray with a heretic, shall he be cast out”. Would someone be subjected to such a strict punishment for praying with those who had gone astray if the Holy Fathers considered that within them the salvific Grace of God was nonetheless present, “which always heals the infirm and supplements that which is lacking” (from the order of ordination to the office of priesthood). Note the use of the word “always”. One RTOC Church writer, possibly attempting to justify his personal views concerning this matter wrote: “the MP has grace, but that grace is inert”. How can we mortals formulate such a determination concerning Grace, that it is supposedly inert?

      There exists yet another incongruity: where is the limit? Who gave us the right to determine in which heretical church is “Grace present”, and in which it is not? Did the Holy Fathers give us such instructions? No!

      I recall something of interest from a lecture by Archimandrite Konstantine (Zaitsev) in a class at Jordanville Seminary: “There exists one and ONLY one Church of Christ. There is no other like Her and in the event of some sort of calamity, She has no substitute. She is irreplaceable. I once had the occasion to hear a person who expressed his view that of all the churches, the Anglican church was closest of all to the Orthodox, closer even than the Catholic. How should one understand this? In what sense is it “closer”? In no sense. They are both heretical and without grace. Could we possibly say to a person who does not have an Orthodox church nearby: it would be better if you went to the Anglican church than to the Catholic one?!”

      A few words about those who say the reverse, that there is no grace in the churches which have fallen away from the Truth. This is correct, but one must nonetheless avoid extremes. Extremes do not yield spiritual instructiveness but sew disdain toward those who think differently as well as unnecessary strife. I will cite an example of “inappropriate extremes”:

THE DETERMINATION OF THE HOLY SOBOR OF THE RUSSIAN
TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH, 13/26 October 2008 states:

      “The Moscow Patriarchate… is not the True Church of Christ and its sacraments cannot be valid unto salvation”. This, so far is acceptable. But what is NOT acceptable is the last line of this DETERMINATION: Outside the Church it is impossible for the soul, stricken by passions to receive true spiritual healing and salvation.” I repeatedly wrote to the RTOC Synod, asking them to REMOVE the word “impossible”: It is impermissible to say that ‘Outside the Church salvation is impossible’, but my pleas have been ignored.

      The Holy Gospel gives us a definite answer to this question concerning salvation. To the disciples’ question: “Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:26-27). Repeatedly I wrote to one RTOC bishop, that the final judgment over each person and his salvation is God’s matter. If you consider that you know for sure for whom salvation is possible and for whom it is impossible, then you contradict Christ Himself, saying: “not all things” all things are possible for God.

      In response to the one posing the question of salvation, the Holy Hierarch Ignatius Brianchaninov gave a significant answer: “I don’t know whether a Catholic will be saved, but I know that if I abandon our patristic Orthodox faith and convert to the Latin one, I know I will not be saved.” In the opinion of this bishop, the Holy Hierarch Ignatius should have answered: “I know that salvation is impossible for a Catholic”. Despite all of my admonitions this bishop did not move from his self-confident convictions and to this day maintains his own belief.

      To trumpet over the course of many years that Cyprianism is a most terrible heresy does not yield significant fruit, but on the contrary does harm and gives others cause to accuse us of fanaticism. Those, who despite our admonitions continue to maintain that heretical churches have grace will have to answer for themselves. It is not for us to judge them, it is not for us to have wrath against them. If we are angry then we are not the preachers of Grace, nor confessors, but fanatics. The holy martyrs, sufferers and confessors were not angry at their tormentors, but prayed for them.

      Our Lord Jesus Christ gave everyone an indication of how to express our annoyance with those who refuse to heed our exhortations: ”And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” (Matt.10:14). In obeying these words, we ought to go with our preaching into another house, into another city, without wrath and lift up our prayers in peace.

 

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

The Holy Pre-eminent Apostles Peter and Paul

June 29/July 12, 2016

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Paschal Encyclical to the God‐loving Flock of the North American Diocese and the Children of God in the Diaspora from Bishop Stefan of Trenton and North America

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen!

      Over the course of three years, the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ were witnesses of an exceptionally wondrous teaching and so many miracles, that, as the Evangelist John the Theologian writes: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (Jn 21:25). For them, Jesus Christ was everything – life and hope and joy! And suddenly all of their hope appeared to collapse into an abyss! We cannot imagine that depression and frenzy which the disciples of Christ were experiencing, seeing their dear Teacher and Lord dead, lying in the tomb, “but we had trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel” (Lk. 24:21). Because of human weakness they could not contain the Lord’s words which had been spoken on the previous day: “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you.” (Jn.16:22).

      It is very possible that we too, because of our human weakness, experience sadness seeing the apostasy which surrounds us. Whose soul does not ache seeing the heretical vacillation and the departure of our former brothers and sisters from Christ’s Truth? But as Christ foretold to His disciples: “The Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn …and shall kill Him and the third day He shall rise again. (Mk.10:33‐34). In a similar manner “Apostasy is permitted by God; do not attempt to stop it by your frail hand… distance yourself, preserve yourself from it; and that is sufficient for you” (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov).

      Everything which concerns the Church of Christ occurs by the will of God. Consequently, His Church is without blemish, perfect and unchangeable. All things in its early centuries which were true, beneficent and salvific are the same even now. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and for ever.” (Heb.13:8). And that first word “REJOICE” which was spoken to the Myrrhbearers upon His Resurrection with all of His triumphant glory, is spoken to all of us!

“Brethren,rejoice always in the Lord: and again I say, rejoice!” (Phil.4:4). May this triumphant Paschal joy abide with us all!

Truly Christ is Risen!

 

Your humble †Bishop Stefan of Trenton and North America

Pascha, 2016

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BISHOP STEFAN’S RESPONSE TO RTOC SYNOD’S NOTIFICATION

Esteemed Vladika Tikhon and other Hierarchs of the RTOC Synod:

Having read Your Notification dated 11/24 February, 2016, my attention was involuntarily drawn to the undignified interference in the matters of another (my) diocese, which is strictly forbidden by the canons.  Furthermore you resorted to slander, which is worse than interference:  Your public and false accusations against a fellow bishop even surpass any decency.

     1)  When, on June 19, 2015 I pulled up to the church in Worcester and entered it, I encountered Archbishop Tikhon – alone – standing in the narthex (there was no service underway).  I greeted him and immediately invited him to come to Trenton in order to serve, but Vladika Tikhon replied, ”No, no, there is no way I can do this.  I have a lot of parishes in Russia and the Ukraine which I need to visit and I have to perform hierarchical rank services there.”  You, Vladika decided in Your Notification to turn my invitation into something vile, saying that since 2009 I have never invited you… Possibly Fr. Victor Melehov or someone else invented this slander, but since you, Vladika signed this Notification, then You are, if not the instigator, then at least a co-participant in this slander.  But if You signed the Notification without reading it, then everything else that has been signed is of no consequence!  There can be no excuse forthcoming from You.  You are responsible for the Truth before God and the faithful!!

       2) Meanwhile, you (Archbishop Tikhon, Archbishop Benjamin and secretary Fr. V. Melehov) signed yet another cunning paper; all of you, including hieromonk Polycarp were present when I reported on the life of our diocese:  of awarding a mitre to Fr. Joseph Sunderland and the East American dean Protopriest Sergey Klestov.  I discussed other matters with you as well:  I told you, for example, that on the Sunday of Orthodoxy we anathematized Sergians, and You, Vladiko impeded this, saying that there was no such resolution…  Remember? Yet You accuse me saying, “We have not received any information about your activities as a diocesan hierarch for a long time”.  Then what did I deliver to all of you at our first meeting if not my report concerning my diocesan activities??  What is the reason for all these ridiculous accusations?  This is only excusable if you have a touch of dementia (don’t we all at our age??) and You do not remember what I said to You half a year ago.  Perhaps You should have re-examined your classified Minutes of that meeting prior to making this accusation against me…or do these Minutes not even exist??

       3) In the synodal document entitled “The Re-creation of the Ecclesiastical Governing Body of ROCA” (2008) it says:  “The necessity and time to conduct a Council or a Sobor must be determined by the ROCA members themselves under the leadership of His Grace Bishop Stefan…”  Yet You accuse me of not convening my clergy according to a schedule determined by You. There exists an expression in English:  “to throw various accusations against a wall in the hopes that some might stick”.  Is this what You are doing? All of this is evidence that we are not equal brethren-bishops in Christ. This is definitely evident in Your Notification by which You have created some kind of public forum and like power-wielding  princes have ascended your thrones of judgment demanding an accounting from me of all acts I have committed and not committed. “thou hypocrite, first remove the beam from thine own eye, and then…(Lk.6:42).  Bishop Hermogenes, who, as I am aware, over the 14 year course of his episcopacy did not hold a single diocesan meeting reproaches me.  Only just recently did he hold one council, and even that was virtually, in order to compose the text of the announcement from his diocese, that “the objectives of Russian Orthodox people and the Putin regime coincide.”

      4) On the same day, (19th of June) in the presence of all of you, I explained that I needed to drive back to Trenton in order not to leave the faithful without a service on the Lord’s day (Sunday) and to fulfill other needs, panikhidas, etc.  You know perfectly well that I told you all about this out loud!  Yet You write that “I did not wish to remain, citing some sort of affairs of my own”.  Is this not a brazen reproach in front of the world from all of you who signed it, that supposedly I behaved wrongly in wishing  to return to my church to perform services.  Do you consider that clerical/Episcopal performance of the Liturgy is “some sort of affair of my own”?  Not only is this interference in the affairs of someone else’s diocese, but real, deceptive cunning.

       Since You have deigned it appropriate to rebuke me publically, so I am writing this refutation also publically so that everyone might see that Your Notification is penetrated with falsehood!  Yes.  Serving God and his Holy Church in my diocese, especially a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church and not RTOC, this is my business…not Yours, and You have no right to ascribe any guilt to me in this regard.

      Please tell us:  what was your objective in writing all these accusations if Your “Notification” is written on the occasion of my autonomy??  Was it not to denigrate me??  And you consider that I need to return under Your such ecclesiastical governance?  In order to heal separations all of you, including Your Secretary should publically apologize and ask forgiveness.

       5)  Yes, the Church Abroad did not consider itself to be autocephalous, but it was Autonomous.  It never depended on anyone.  On the contrary, the Catacomb worshippers in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, although having no contact with us, commemorated the Holy Hierarch Philaret of New York.  So then, please, do not distort my words in order to rebuke me in front of the faithful:  You write:  “ROCA hierarchs never made announcements, unlike you, so brazenly on the matter of autocephaly.”  Where in my Declaration of Autonomy did I use the world “autocephaly”?? It is YOU who brazenly  ascribe “autocephaly” to me in order to bury me.  You have ascribed to me determinations which do not exist in my Declaration of Separation from Your Synod and then You begin to refute these same determinations which You made up.  Was this not also the behavior of the Moscow Patriarchate toward the Church Abroad? “The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after Thy law.” (Psalm 118:85).

       6)  In the document “The Re-creation of the Ecclesiastical Governing Body of ROCA” in paragraph #2, it says:  “It is our common goal with the ROCA clergy abroad  to help the Abroad Church-Sister in a difficult period of her life.”  And in the Address/Appeal of Archbishop Tikhon to the ROCA clergy dated April 18th, 2006, it said:  We “consider it our duty to provide to You indispensable spiritual and ecclesiastical/canonical support on the part of the Church-Sister in the Homeland.  But we do not want to force our will on You;  we do not wish to subjugate parishes abroad to the Church in Russia.. You can count on our participation in the restoration of the True Church Abroad, with which the RTOC had been in fraternal  interaction as with a Church-Sister.”

        Yet in Your latest instructions by direct text you demanded that I reassess my “relationship with the RTOC as with a “Sister-Church”.  What is this?  A subtle hint that You indeed no longer wish to be in “fraternal interaction” with me as a hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad?

      7) In the 9th paragraph of the Notification we read:  “You are required to continue to commemorate the name of the Chairman of the Synod of the Church, from which you received the right to be autonomous.”  This is the crux of the matter:  I never received the right to autonomy from your Synod!  A further clarification of this issue follows in the end of my Address.

      8) You write:  “We received from You a letter of discontent over our not informing You of matters concerning church life in Russia”.  True…One example is sufficient:  Each consecration of a bishop is a serious matter.  All the hierarchs are queried concerning the candidate.  It has always been this way; this is the way it should be! (Note: You, Vladika Tikhon, here in the USA even queried  all the clergy concerning my consecration in 2007, for which purpose a North American conference of ROCOR clergy was held in Trenton and those who were unable to attend were asked to send their written opinions.)  But I learn about the consecration of Vladika Savvaty only a week later from a seminary colleague who happened to congratulate me on the addition to our spiritual family and right then asked me with surprise:  “How is it that you did not know of the consecration of Vladika Savvaty?  After all, you are a member of their Synod?”  I had nothing against the consecration of Vladika Savvaty nor do I have to this day.  But your disdain for me as a hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church became evident as well in the fact that you did not deem it necessary to at least apologize about forgetting about my existence.

         9) And not only “in Russia”.  You consider it unnecessary to contact me over matters concerning our Church Abroad.  All the faithful know and both You and Fr. V. Melehov should know that for everything which concerns church and diocesan matters consent and a blessing must be requested from the ruling bishop, but You estimated that You have power over everyone without exception.  On June 12, 2012, I received from You and from Fr. V. Melehov a synodal ukaz  which informed that he was appointed by Your Synod to the position of Finance Manager, with instructions that he open a bank account here, in my diocese and organize collections of funds for RTOC.  In his letter to me, Fr. V. Melehov did not ask a blessing…his letter was not even in the form of a question, but in the form of an announcement.  I refrained from wrath and in an appropriate manner informed Fr. V. Melehov and You that this is not how things should be done! (I kept copies of all this correspondence if someone needs them for verification).

        Yet again, You did not deem it necessary to apologize or at least to reply to me.  Evidently from offence taken, since then You have ceased all interaction with me…and this continues to this day.  I remind You that during the last three years I did not even once receive from You the minutes of Synod meetings, although I considered myself, prior to my Declaration (November 11/24, 2015) to be a member of the Synod.

        10) The 13th Canon of Antioch forbids the establishing of ecclesiastical structures in someone else’s diocese, and in the synodal document on “The Re-creation of the Ecclesiastical Governing Body of ROCA” (November 24, 2006), it was stated by You:  “we are not creating our own structures abroad…”  Nevertheless, You opened up the door here in the North-American diocese – despite my protest – in order, as You deceptively told me:  “in order to have support from abroad in the event of persecutions in Russia”.  In Your last letter (March, 2011), You wrote me:  “I repeat myself – the main thought behind this matter is potential juridical and legal defense of Russian hierarchs in the event of persecutions in Russia, we pursue no other objective. But then You immediately used this “registration” as a step towards creating a “Synodal Residence” with many other goals!.  Furthermore in Your Ukaz on the creation of a Residence (No.001-C3) it says:  “By the decision of the RTOC Synod of Bishops, from 7/27 October, 2010, adopted with the participation of Bishop Stefan of Trenton..”

              Forgive me for my directness, Vladika, but You are lying!  I did not participate in any way in your decision and I never approved the creation of Your residence on the territory of my diocese!  In the same ukaz it is written:  “with the consent of the ruling bishop”.  All of you bishops, and Fr. V. Melehov know that according to Church rules, there can be no synodal residence without the consent of the Ruling Bishop.  You, Vladika Tikhon, cannot produce a document for the Church that I approved this residence – because such a document does not exist!  Your residence (podvorie) is unlawful because I did not give any consent to it.  It is built on lies and You continue to lie regarding this, and even added such an impudence in Your Notification: “On a stavropegial territory the ruling bishop has no power”.

           11) Now concerning stavropegiality: I come to find out by chance last year that Fr. V. Melehov calls his church a cathedral (sobor) and his parish stavropegial.  Fr. V. Melehov declared his parish stavropegial without authorization, despite the fact that at the RTOC Meeting of the Synod of Bishops on 15/28 June, 2008, the following was resolved:  “Fr. V. Melehov “requests for his parishes in the USA (city of Worcester) and in Russia (town of Dmitrov, district of Moscow) stavropegial status.  If we accept this, his parish in the USA must only be under subjection to Vl. Stefan;  the parish in the Moscow suburb may be granted stavropegial status, pursuant to the decision of the Synod”.  If the RTOC Synod granted the parish of Fr. Victor in the city Worcester stavropegial status, then I, his ruling hierarch was not approached with such a request by anyone and I did not give my consent to this.

           a) Perhaps I should not impose a suspension on Fr. V. Melehov for the unauthorized naming of his parish stavropegial?

Perhaps there exist some classified minutes of a Synod meeting, the details of which are not known to anyone, which give him the right to do so…whether this be lawful or unlawful.

          b) Perhaps I should not impose a suspension for having ceased to commemorate his ruling bishop?

According to the 13th canon of the Dual Constantinople Council:  “Whether it be a presbyter or a deacon... who dares to withdraw from communion with his bishop and does not pronounce his name in sacred prayers at Liturgy, according to Church tradition:  such a one must be excommunicated”.

Perhaps there exist some classified minutes of a Synod meeting, the details of which are not known to anyone, which give him the right to do so…whether this be lawful or unlawful.

It seems that I should at least have been informed of such a decision of the Synod, had this decision not been made secret.. is that not so?

              c) The “Notification” of Archbishop Tikhon to Priest Sergei Myasoyedov from 12/25 February, 2016, (only two weeks ago) is signed “Chairman of the Synod of Bishops” but Fr. V. Melehov  commemorates him at divine services as “First Hierarch”. Perhaps I should not remind Fr. V. Melehov that “all sacred ministries of a presbyter are accomplished by him through the authority of the Bishop”. (55th Rule of the Holy Apostles).

Perhaps there exist some classified minutes of a Synod meeting, the details of which are not known to anyone, which give him the right to do this…even if it is unknown to anyone else.

             d) Maybe I should not impose a suspension on Fr. V. Melehov for having separated from me and having gone under the omophorion of Archbishop Tikhon without my canonical release, in the absence of canonical violations or heresy on my behalf.

Perhaps there exist some classified minutes of a Synod meeting, the details of which are not known to anyone, which free him from this obligation.

Now it becomes clear why You ceased publicizing minutes of meetings.  You are no longer capable of holding conciliar councils, of discussing issues, of hearing those who expect Your Archpastoral understanding and wise decisions and to adopt resolutions unless You conspire in secret.

          In conclusion, with great sorrow I will say one thing:  On that day when You announced to the RTOC flock of believers Your decision to not publicize Synod minutes, you lost the conciliarity of the Church of Christ and therefore are no longer a legitimate Synod. I am not speaking of the entire RTOC as a Church.  You have many faithful clergy, monastics and pious True-Orthodox Christians.  I am speaking of Your Synod…

         You have no right to dismiss or suspend me.  “Physician, heal thyself!”  And we have the right to autonomously set up our administration, to which, incidentally we always had the right, whether it be with Your or without Your good pleasure.  In fact, You have no right to keep us under Your fist.

         Permit me to repeat Your words: (No.6 on page 2) “we do not want to force our will on You, we do not wish to subjugate parishes abroad to the Church in Russia…”  You yourselves received your consecrations from the Church Abroad, yet now, You turn around and threaten me with dismissal for not fulfilling subjugation demands.  We are now equal Sister-Churches, with equal rights.  All these years You had meetings with representatives of other churches and on your own decided with whom you wanted or did not want to be in Eucharistic union and now we, in complete accordance with St. Patriarch Tikhon’s Ukaz #362 and our Regulations of the Russian Church Abroad, are returning to our Autonomous, free existence in the Abroad.  We have no reason to commemorate the Chairman of Your Synod.  Your Synod is not our Synod and is not over us! We were temporarily within the structure of Your Synod, but the behavior of Your Synod has brought this temporary state to an end.

        I often remind my Flock that no falsehood or deception is permissible.  Under no circumstances, nor in the face of any threats, even in the smallest form are falsehood and deception permissible, especially in matters of the Undefiled Church of Christ.  If honesty is absent, then the Grace of God is absent!  And from various ends of Russia the tears of Your clergy and flock reach me, crying out that the Synod has become steeped in lies.  My good teacher, Vladika Averky wrote:  “It is indispensable to remember and know:  “the True Church of Christ cannot proclaim or assert any sort of falsehood” (“True Orthodoxy and its Enemies in the Contemporary World”).  And I sincerely advise You to take heed of these wise words.

         We wish You success in amendment in this with God’s help.  With the same sincere respect, I beseech forgiveness in the advent of Great Lent if I involuntarily embittered You.  Your fellow brother in Christ.

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

26 February/10 March, 2016 - (St. Porphyry of Gaza)

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DECLARATION of AUTONOMY

      In March 2007, due to the absence of having our own Bishop, we came under the omophorion of the Synod of the Russian True Orthodox Church on a temporary basis, and we thank the Hierarchy of RTOC for their prayers and their care over the past 8 plus years.

      Approximately 1 year later, I received an affirmation from all the Bishops of RTOC in which they were in full agreement as to our possible election to function autonomously.

      The Affirmation declares: “We, in full unanimity among ourselves and supported by the concordance of the Holy Council, express our agreement with your liberty in selecting the future path of forging the church life in the overseas section of the Local Russian Church. You can remain a member of the ROCA Synod... or immediately choose an autonomous administration and commune with us on amicable principles...” (Full text is available dependant on the need to know basis). This was endorsed with personal signatures: Archbishop Tikhon, Archbishop Veniamin and Bishop Hermogenes, and handed to me personally by Protopriest George Tsap, 5/18 November 2008.

      Unfortunately, experience over the past few years has shown that it is impossible to overcome long distances, monetary expenses and arduous and frequent travels for Synodal meetings, while to administer through letters with other hierarchs is also untenable – to maintain ongoing correspondence concerning various deliberations is practically impossible.

      Because of this, over the past period there has arisen much misunderstanding and problems; and the problem here is not only caused by the absence of some correspondence – over the past three years, I haven’t received not one copy of the protocols passed by any of the Synodal sessions. This in itself indicates the future steps our Church Abroad is forced to take – especially after the announcement that the RTOC Synod will no longer publish the protocols of their sessions!? – so that you won’t be able to find them on the Internet!

      According to my understanding, Archbishop Tikhon is not the First Hierarch of RTOC, but is the President of the RTOC Synod.

      From this date of this Declaration, in accordance with the 2008 Affirmation of the RTOC’s Bishops; our North American Diocese has devolved into an autonomous state. Naturally, I am withdrawing my membership of ROCA’s Synod – and as a logical consequence, the President of RTOC’s Synod, Archbishop Tikhon will no longer be commemorated in our churches as a ruling hierarch during Church Services.

      However, this certainly doesn’t mean that we are severing our communion with RTOC. Henceforth, we will be commemorating RTOC – our Sister-Church – as “Orthodox Episcopacy of the Persecuted/True Russian Church”.

      In this Declaration, I have avoided in every possible manner to inflict offence to anyone. It’s quite possible that some may wish not to remain under my omophorion. Let that person act according to the Church Canons: to request a “Letter of Release” (15th Rule of the Holy Apostles and 17th Rule of the Sixth Ecumenical Council).

      I would have nothing against granting the wish of such a person. Likewise: if a person wishes to come under my omophorion, I hope that the Bishop of RTOC will also grant the wish of that person – but naturally, it is the Bishop’s decision.

      If there are those who question my motives; those who may attribute this autonomy to my desire to become the embodiment of Christ’s True Church: I would gladly take a back seat to an honest, knowledgeable and dependable hierarch. I am getting old and tired. But since circumstances are such that there are no others with whom to form a Synod Abroad at the present time, I resolve this autonomy to be in line with the statute of the Bishop’s Council of the Russian Church Abroad at their conference in Sremskih Karlovtsah, Yugoslavia (Сремских Карловцах) on August 31, 1934:

      “Should unforeseen circumstances arise because of which the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad will be cut off from communications, or will be forced to cease its activities, every hierarch is to govern his faithful via his archpastoral conscience and knowledge until such a time that a Council of Bishops, or Synod, can be convened without outside disruptions and interference. This directive is an internal edict, not for public disclosure.

      This Decision was signed by Metropolitan Anthony

      My desire is that we surmount all unpleasantness and raise our prayers to our Lord God in peace and love.

 

With love in Christ

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

November 11/24, 2015

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PASCHAL ENCYCLICAL TO THE GOD-LOVING FLOCK
OF THE DIOCESE OF NORTH AMERICA

CHRIST IS RISEN!

      Once again, the most-merciful God has vouchsafed us to arrive at the feast of Pascha. The Church calls upon all of us to "enjoy this fine and bright festival, those who had labored, and those who had been slothful, those who had fasted, and those who had not fasted."

(Paschal Encyclical of St. John Chrysostom)

      "The beatifically honorable Lord will accept the last even as the first… He shows mercy upon the last and gratifies the first… and He both accepts the deeds and welcomes the intention and honors the acts and praises the offering." With these words Saint John Chrysostom reveals to us the benevolence of God and calls upon each believer to enter without distress into the joy of our risen Lord and Savior.

      And this joy is not earthly, but spiritual, mystical and therefore is not subject to psychological analysis or testing and is indescribable in any human language. This joy, as the Holy Hierarch John so vividly construes, is not given in accordance with our accomplishments. This is God’s gift abundantly bestowed on this chosen and holy day. What a comfort! "And your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you."

(John,16:22)

May God grant all of you, from the first to the last, this Paschal joy, this comfort in our Lord and Savior.

INDEED HE IS RISEN!

 

Your humble †Bishop Stefan of Trenton and North America

Pascha, 2015

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NATIVITY EPISTLE

TO THE FAITHFUL FLOCK OF THE NORTH AMERICAN DIOCESE

      By God’s mercy we have again acquired the opportunity to renew our glorification of the King of Glory for His great condescension toward us sinners. The King of the Archangels and Angels, the Creator of heaven and earth descends from the heavens and becomes the Son of Man. The uncontainable God becomes contained in the womb of the Virgin. The Word of God takes on the image of a servant, becomes incarnate for the sake of our salvation. The King of Glory comes down from the heavens in order to raise us up to heaven!

      On this blessed night the heavens united with the earth for the first time. The heavens opened up and man for the first time heard the wondrous announcement from the Heavenly Angels: “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Lk.2:10,11). And here, for the first time, man heard the Angelic singing “Glory to God in the highest, good will toward men”!

      To our great sorrow, we observe that on the earth there is no peace, but one should not be surprised by this: this was foretold and “this is meant to be”. But it is particularly sad that among Orthodox church people we see less and less frequently “good will in men”!

      The primordial enemy of our salvation conquered for himself the Church Abroad not only with assaults from “without”, but from within he strives with great effort to overcome each soul, to destroy everyone, down to the last person! His goal is to sew doubt in the holiness of the Church and indifference toward Christ’s Truth, to distance the soul from the grace of the Holy Spirit Who guides man toward every Truth. The Light of Christ is extinguished in such a person and his soul becomes darkened and instead of peace, there appear indignation, wrath and even malice toward yesterday’s friends.

      Frequently and often in the history of the Christian Church the faithful were subjected to persecution, enticement and assaults from heretics and apostates. They managed to draw away many of “these little ones” to follow them, often even members of their own families would cross over to the side of the heretics. But nevertheless, the faithful did not become wrathful and did not chide them, but prayed for these betrayers, keeping in remembrance that “God wishes for all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”.

      May the Lord grant a prosperous and peaceful life and love not so much for our own but also for those who hate and offend us. Whoever prays for his enemies and wishes them well, in him the grace-filled peace of God comes to dwell, a love which is not hypocritical, but replete with “good will toward men”.

I greet all the faithful Friends and Flock on the feast of the Nativity of Christ!

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

December 25, 2014/January 7, 2015

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Response to “Edict” #09/2014 of the Moscow Patriarchate Bishops Abroad

Esteemed former brethren in the bosom of the ROCA:

         Seven years later, you decided to depose us, the eight bishops who did not go with you in your pernicious move to unite with the Moscow Patriarchate.

         Immediately, unwittingly, the falsehood written in your “edict” stands out, that we “did not heed the several admonitions and suspensions from your ruling hierarchs”.  I, over the course of the last seven years never received anything like that from anyone – neither admonitions, nor suspensions, nor letters, nor words.  My last exchange of words with any one of you was with Metropolitan Laurus on May 29/June 11, 2007.

         When Met. Laurus saw that he was not able to persuade me to follow your traitorous path, he asked me in writing to hand over to him the Antimins, holy myrrh, and book of records.  I traveled to Jordanville and personally handed him all that he had requested. The conversation was brief.  I fulfilled his request and he fulfilled my desire for me and my parishioners to be left alone and we parted forever.  No suspension from my “ruling archbishop” ever followed!

         I attach a copy of the receipt from that day (May 29/June 11, 2007) with the personal signature of Metropolitan Laurus, which states:  “Herein, Protopriest Stefan is relieved of all duties with regards to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (75 East 93rd St., New York, NY 10128).”

         This falsehood of yours is trivial and forgivable compared to your unification with the false Moscow Patriarchate.

  • All of our hierarchs, including Metropolitan Vitaly asserted that “the Church Abroad in preserving its purity, should not have any canonical, prayerful or even simple daily association with the Moscow Patriarchate” (Metropolitan Anastasy).
    “Can a church have grace when it has united with theomachists?! The answer is clear!” (Metropolitan Philaret of New York).

And you, despite the fact that within the Moscow Patriarchate nothing has changed and they have remained strangers to repentance, you stubbornly continue to assert that the MP in some incomprehensible manner has suddenly become canonical and with grace? Since when did it become a church with grace?!  They insist that they always had and continue to have grace, and you are leaving this matter without clarification.

  • The MP not only justified the betrayal by Met. Sergius, but it praises it, considering that even in the future, for its self-preservation the church can save itself by means of union with the godless and with pagan-worshippers which has become known as “Sergianism”. But your position with regards to this anti-Christ innovation also remains without clarification.
  • The MP established its “church” with the assistance of godless ones and performed uncanonical consecrations of godless KGB agents, and others appointed by the secular authorities. Ordinations of such appointees are invalid and without grace, and as such, cannot be the recipients of the grace of Apostolic Succession. Who knows how many pseudo-hierarchs who did not have apostolic succession have since continued their unlawful consecrations.  Now it is no longer possible to determine who among the MP hierarchs have apostolic succession, for without apostolic succession, the church is not Apostolic, but a false, grace-less pseudo church.  This same church, consisting of unlawful bishops and clergy is the one with which you are in Eucharistic inter-communion.
  • Patriarch Alexei II supposedly took upon himself all the sins of his colleagues. Blasphemously, by this statement alone, he released the persecutors of the Church of Christ, those who lifted up a hand against the Anointed One, who killed clergymen, destroyed the temples of God and defiled our fatherland, from responsibility and anathema.  No court would allow a father or mother to assume responsibility for the murder committed by their son, in order to absolve the son of responsibility. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I never heard that in the history of the Christian Church someone would have dared consider that he, like Christ, has been given the authority to take upon himself the sins of the “world”?! Do you believe this to be admissible?! In this matter, your position remains enigmatic.
  • The MP continues to participate in the World Council of Churches and despite your “hopes” to dissuade them from associating in prayer with heretics, it continues to actively participate in ecumenism.  Everyone knows that the MP does not recognize our 1983 anathema against ecumenism.  Do you recognize it?  Whether you recognize it or not, you are under this anathema because of your association in prayer with them, and not only with them but with the others participating in ecumenism. It turns out that for seven years you were waiting for us to “repent”, but now you say you depose us because we “did not heed your many admonitions” (your edict) and did not join you in your anathema!?
  • By your compromises you have brought such disorder into your churches, that the faithful laugh, saying, “We now celebrate Nativity twice.  The children particularly like this because now they find gifts under the tree twice.”  Having celebrated Nativity on December 25th new style, for them meat-eating begins, despite the fact that these days are still within the Nativity Fast.  And the strictest day of this fast, the Eve of the Nativity of Christ, again they break the fast, celebrating the Theophany.  Some of them, on the following day, come to your churches in order to again celebrate the Nativity.  I will not delve deeper into details concerning the other disorder to do with the Peter Paul and Dormition fasts, with the Paschalia, etc..  It is possible that by some means you have found a way out of this situation, but for us any compromise is foreign, and what is happening in your situation is unacceptable.
  • In our Church Abroad, just as in ancient times, the people elected the clergy. When the bishop ordained, he pronounced, “axios” – the people in approval repeated thrice “axios”.  If they disapproved, they shouted “anaxios”.  The body of the faithful always was and is the foundation of the spirit of faith and the fear of God.  In your part of the Church Abroad this no longer exists! When you recognized the MP as your mother church and its head as lawful patriarch, you ceased to be considered hierarchs of the Church Abroad.  From that day when you went under the yoke of the MP and submitted to their regulations and requirements, you became hierarchs of the Abroad part of the Moscow Patriarchate.  From that day on your suspensions are invalid.

         We have not changed anything, nor are we changing anything, but we hold and value everything as was commanded by the Holy Hierarch Philaret and the sacred Laws of God.  We did not leave the Church Abroad, have not deviated from the Church laws and have violated no canons.  When we saw that you entered into association with heretics, which is strictly forbidden by the Church, we acted pursuant to the 15th Rule of the Council of Constantinople, stepping away from you so as not to be co-participants in your betrayal.  Not we, but you violated the testaments of our Church Abroad and went through the wide gates into the embrace of the powerful of this world.

         We do not wish you evil, but wish your salvation.  With God all things are possible.  It is likewise possible that at the current time you are not interested in any statements of fact or proof.  Therefore I will only ask one thing of you – Leave us alone.

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

October 30 / November 12, 2014

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STATEMENT CONCERNING THE UNION OF
The Synod in Resistance & the GOC

† Bishop Stefan of Trenton and North America

      The following statement is not the official statement of the RTOC, but my personal observations and concerns. Many faithful do not know what to make of this union, and have brought some questionable details to my attention. This statement is a reply to some of these concerns.
      Many see this unity in a positive light and now say that we must also join the GOC Synod under Archb. Kallinikos, saying that the Church in Resistance has renounced Cyprianism. This, however, does not appear to be genuine – and talks with the hierarchs of this new Union are not possible until points of contention are cleared up.
      The Old Calendarist Association (Koinotita) has sent a certain number of letters to the GOC Synod before and after their union with the Synod in Resistance in order to have details of it. The Association could never get an answer to the most critical questions regarding the position of the former Cyprianites. The cyprianists seem indeed to practice the double speech saying to their flock that they changed nothing in their teaching and that their departure was justified whereas at the same time the union is presented to the flock of GOC-K as a repentance of the cyprianites. To add more to the confusion, the permanent silence of the synod is worrying. Since the union, the key documents are still missing.
(Par Theophylactere – Publie dans : orthodoxie-libre)

      The following is an excerpt from a letter to the GOC from the Greek Religious Community of the True Orthodox Christians (Athens):
      There is the claim that these Cyprianites Bishops have signed precisely the opposites of what they preached in the presence of their flock with “uncovered/naked head” and that the signed documents are hidden in the offices of the Holy Synod, which none from us has ever seen, even though we requested for them repeatedly.
      We do know that all taking place in hiding and with severe confidentiality for matters of faith are not acceptable because our Lord and God accepts only those things that the Bishops preach “uncovered/naked head’, in the presence of their flock. Deceitfulness in Orthodoxy is unacceptable, i.e. to preach one thing and sign another.
      These Bishops assured their flock a few days prior to the concelebrating (12.3.2014) that the things they believed in up to that moment were correct (i.e. they insist upon their heresy). At this point it must also be noted that the Cyprianites Bishop Chrysostomos of Etna (attachment 4) while informing his flock, he declared the following: Firstly you must be certain that none of our principles, none of our temperance and none of the spirit that was bequeathed to us by the previous Reverend Archbishop Cyprianos have been put aside (revoked).

      What is most troubling is the fact that this new union [the GOC & the Church in Resistance] continues to renounce our anathema on Ecumenism, which was declared in 1983, - a time when both these churches were in communion with ROCOR. This, as well as their failure to recognize our anathema on Sergianism [placing Christ’s Church under the full control of a secular government whose goal it was to destroy the Church] continues to impress upon their faithful that the uncanonical & heretical practices of the MP & other Ecumenical Entities do not rise to the level of a false church. This brings us to the question; what is ‘a Church?’
      Many have come to terms with the idea of there being three so called categories of churches:
      1. A false church – Catholic, Anglican etc.
      2. An Orthodox church with questionable and/or unacceptable practices such as the new calendar, ecumenism etc. –an “ailing church”.
      3. An Orthodox True church – the Church of Christ: “Even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it…That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, without flaw, or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5: 25, 27)
      The concept of three categories is incorrect. Since the times of the first Christians there were heretical teachings. The Saints and Holy Fathers made every effort to put a stop to the false teachings, and when the heretics refused, they were placed under anathema; cast out of the Church. The faithful were told – as they are being told to this very day – not to follow their teachings and not to pray with them. ‘End of story’ as they say. No where do we find further speculation concerning the breath of the Holy Spirit and validity of sacraments of those who are outside the Church.
      There is only one church of Christ. It is the One True Church. There is no second rate or ailing church with wrinkles and blemishes. They are all false churches. The blessed Saint Metropolitan Philaret [of New York] considered the MP a false church. Metropolitan Vitaly considered it a false church. If it is not a false church, then – the church created by Metrop. Sergius and Stalin - is an integral part of Christ’s true church!
      It comes down to this: Do the hierarchs of this new union consider the MP & any other church that is practicing ecumenism a ‘church of Christ’ or ‘a false church’? There can be no mincing of words. It has to be one or the other. If they avoid responding to this question, or continue to insist that there are churches in this second category, they are preaching Cyprianism.
      Likewise, if the complaints of deception and continued non-disclosure of documents are true, they have a problem that we cannot be a part of.
      This reminds me of two corporations who have been going through litigation for many months, or even years. Then, through arbitration, they come to a settlement for an undisclosed dollar amount – with neither party admitting any wrongdoing.

Ascension of our Lord.
May 29, 2014

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Paschal Epistle to the God-loving Flock
Of the North American Diocese

Christ is Risen!

O, come all ye faithful; let us worship Christ’s Holy Resurrection!

      Once again, thanking God we were vouchsafed to arrive at this joyous and bright triumphal celebration.  Since the day of Adam’s fall into sin, death reigned over the human race.  Death was insur-mountable because all people are “descendents” of this fall into sin, and death would have remained such had we not been saved from death by Death of the Savior.

      Sometimes children, in their simplicity ask:  “If Christ ‘trampled down death by His death’ then why is it that now everyone continues to die?”  The question is simple but the answer is essential even for adults:  Because the time has not yet come for general immortality.  The disciples had asked the Resurrected Christ about this:  “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom…? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:6-7)

      At the Lord’s Second Coming not only “shall there be no more death” (Rev. 21:4) but all the dead shall arise from their graves and this earthly life which is familiar to us will cease.  The words of the Savior spoken in the Parable of the Sower explain that physically nothing must change until Judgment day:  In response to the servants who offered the man who had sown wheat to pull out the tares, the Lord says: “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest:” (Matt. 13: 29-30).

      But we, the faithful, although we continue to live in this sinful, earthly world, in a world of good and evil, in a world of life and death – we have a foretaste of heavenly sweetness.  We hymn joyously with the Heavenly Angels, knowing that the gates of hell and death have been abolished by Christ’s Death and hell no longer has power over us.  “We celebrate the mortification of death, the destruction of hell, the beginning of a different eternal life.”1  And our physical death is no longer a “death” as such.  The words of the Apostle Paul bear witness to this:  “I… having a desire to depart and to be with Christ; which is far better:  for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  (Phil. 1:23,21).

      A child’s riddle comes to mind:  Question:  Who died yet was not born?  Answer:  Adam.  Question:  And who was born once and died twice?  Answer:  Lazarus, the Four-Day Dead.

      At this point it is edifying for us to contemplate the death of the Righteous Lazarus.  His first death was common:  funereal, despairing – the kind that existed prior to Christ’s Passion and Resurrection.2 But his second one was no longer a death but a “gain” – a translation from this most sorrowful and worse world to an incomparably better Eternal Pascha!

      The Church provides repose not only to him and to all holy God-pleasers in the heavenly habitations, but calls as well upon all of us:  “enter into the joy of your Lord”.

      May the grace-filled Paschal joy dwell with all of you! Amen!

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

7/20 April, 2014


1 Seventh Song of the Paschal Canon.
2 Tradition says that Lazarus, after his resurrection remained alive for another thirty years, was Bishop of the Island of Cyprus where like the apostles he labored much in the spreading of Christianity and there he peacefully reposed.
 

Lives of the Saints (Menaion) St. Dimitri of Rostov, October 17

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NATIVITY EPISTLE

TO THE FAITHFUL FLOCK OF THE NORTH AMERICAN DIOCESE

      By God’s mercy we have once again found the opportunity to renew our glorification of the King of Glory for His great condescension,  for His incarnation “for our sake and for the sake of our salvation”.

      Undoubtedly, for us Pascha is the most joyous triumph of triumphs, the day on which we acquired salvation through the redemptive sacrifice of Christ God.  While the Nativity of Christ has become for us the second greatest feast.  The circumstances and events surrounding the birth of Christ somehow particularly astound us, and our hearts in tenderness glorify the Divine Infant for His great condescension:  “A strange and most glorious mystery do I behold: the cave is heaven; the Virgin, the throne of the cherubin; the manger, the place wherein the uncontainable Christ God lay..” (Irmos, Ode 9).

      The Lord’s humility and condescension consist not only in the fact that He appears upon earth in the image of a man, but takes on the image of a helpless infant and submissively endures all adversities.

      Because of the order issued by Caesar Augustus, Joseph and Mary were forced to make a difficult and tiring voyage to Bethlehem in the ninth month from the day of Her seedless conception.  Having no relatives or acquaintances there, they attempted to lodge at the inn, but there was no space left there for them.  Nor was there anyone to be found in Bethlehem who would open his door for them, and Joseph the Betrothed and the Virgin Mary were forced to take shelter from the gloom and cold of night in a cave.  On this blessed night the Virgin Mary gives birth to the Divine Infant Christ, and having no comforts or conveniences, places Him in a manger.

      All of this might appear to be undesirable and by chance.  But this is not so.  Christ providentially is born in Bethlehem of Judea.  The specific place where Christ would be born had been prophetically foretold. And the Angel announced the great joy to the shepherds:  “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you;  Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12).  The Angel calls Christ lying in the manger, a sign.  And indeed, this image of the infant Christ, lying in the manger was significantly imprinted in all minds as the image of the mysterious condescension of God.

      For God there is nothing undesirable or accidental.  Undesirable, sinful things have occurred and continue to occur in our church midst and in our personal lives, but this does not mean that we are forsaken by God to the whims of fate!  Our problem is that we are inflicted with lack of faith and to this moment have not learned to humbly surrender to the will of God, and the will of God is good!

      Man, gazing on the image of the Infant Christ lying in the manger, for the first time saw the “face” of God and understood, that before him is the Image of the meek, abundantly loving and most good God, who had been hidden until now from depraved, fallen man.  “Christ is on earth, be ye exalted!” the church triumphantly hymns, for “God is with us!”

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

December 25, 2013/January 7, 2014

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Sermon of Bishop Stefan

March 10, 2013

The Second Coming of Christ

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Paschal Epistle to the Faithful Flock of the North American Diocese

CHRIST IS RISEN!

“Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together, and all having taken up Thy cross let us say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord”.  We often hymned these words on the feast of Palm Sunday.  We must remember that we were gathered together by the Holy Spirit not only for the occasion of the feast, but also so that we, heeding the call of the Holy Spirit, should continue to abide in spirit in the church during these days of remembrance of the redemptive feat of the Lamb and the Shepherd slaughtered for us.

Yesterday we were crucified with Christ and were buried with Him; today we arise and are resurrected with our Savior and Lord.1 How can we consider that we were crucified with Christ?  Did we yesterday indeed suffer buffeting, mockery and insult?  Did we indeed endure the sufferings on the cross and a torturous death?  Did a spear in fact pierce our hearts, as it did pierce the heart of the Mother of God, when the words foretold (predicted) by Simeon in the church came to pass?2  We have never endured anything of this kind in our lives.  It is impossible for us to be co-sufferers with Christ, for we are not capable either in heart nor in mind to comprehend and value the unutterable condescension and goodness of the Lord toward us fallen ones.  In what manner then, do we arise today together with the risen Christ?1  This question is answered by Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans which is the reading appointed for Great and Holy Saturday: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?  Therefore we are buried by Him by baptism into death:  that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection:  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”3

Christ was a blameless sacrifice for us, and by His death He trampled down death, and granted life unto those within the tombs.  He raised up Adam from corruption, and abolished death4 and He renews us earthborn ones.  He accomplished everything on our account and for our sake, for the sake of our eternal blessedness.  Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ is the fullness of all goodness, the fullness of our Paschal joy and happiness.

What can we wish for ourselves and for others? That we may all be rid of our former sinful man, that man whom we ourselves do not like in us, and that we may enter into this fullness of Paschal joy.

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

Resurrection of Our Lord May 5, 2013


  1. Ode 3, Paschal Canon
  2. Stichera of Matins, Great and Holy Saturday
  3. Epistle to the Romans 6:3-6,11
  4. Exapostilarion of Pascha

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NATIVITY EPISTLE

TO THE FAITHFUL CHILDREN OF THE NORTH AMERICAN DIOCESE

December 25, 2012/January 7, 2013

“Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace:
good will among men.” (Luke 2:14)

      The time of great spiritual and emotional tribulations has come for us all. Of this there is no doubt.  Likewise, we have no doubt that the events which occurred in recent years and still continue to occur have been permitted by God.  However, it is most sorrowful to see that instead of a spiritual flourishing of faith and piety in our homeland and abroad the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess: 2:7) is woefully taking root.  Nonetheless, having cast aside our despondency, we ought to remind ourselves that our joy and comfort are not in fellow compatriots nor in “friends” but in our Lord God and Savior.

      According to His goodness, and according to our faith, God daily comforts our despondent heart by His grace, but particularly on the days of the great and salvific feasts.  The incarnation of the divine infant Christ, is a “great mystery of piety”.  This is “a strange and most glorious mystery” hymns the Church.  For the first time ever, fallen man heard the singing of heavenly angels:  “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace”.

         In focusing one's attention on this marvelous chant, one must pay particular attention to the word “peace”.  Peace is not calm idleness.  This is a grace-filled state of the soul granted to us from heaven.  This is a divine gift.  Only peace granted by God is true peace; that same peace about which the heavenly angels sang out on this grace-filled night.  It is possible for a person to acquire this grace-filled gift of peace, but we are not capable of describing it in our earthly words!

        The holy Evangelist John the Theologian describes the words of the prayer of the Lord to God the Father:  “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the enmity.” (John 17:15). “Enmity” has existed throughout the ages.  In what turmoil the faithful agonized because of the monophysites, iconoclasts and other destroyers of peace, the tempters of “these little ones”!  These holy confessors endured and did not grow despondent; by their example they teach us as well to endure our contemporary traitors.

       May the Lord God help us all to lay aside those thoughts which oppress us, and instead that we may give the glory to God through the festal hymns:   “As God of peace and Father of compassion, Thou didst send Thine Angel of Great Counsel, Who granteth us peace.  Therefore, guided to the light of knowledge divine, and waking at dawn out of the night, we glorify Thee, Who lovest mankind.”  (Ode V, Irmos)

I congratulate all the honorable clergy, beloved spiritual children and trusted friends on the feast of the Nativity of Christ.  May the peace of God settle upon all of you and may the Lord God bless all of your good intentions and deeds in the new year 2013.

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

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Podvig – Our Most Important Commitment

Encyclical to the beloved in Christ Members of the 2012 Australian Conference

The Church of Christ will exist until the end of the ages.  Of this there is no doubt. “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt.16:18).  For us it is not a question of whether the Church shall exist, although we should always support its existence, but the question is will we be in the Church at the Second Coming?  At the head of all Church sacred ministry is the Holy Eucharist, the remembrance of Christ's redemptive sacrifice for the sins of the world, His sufferings, death and resurrection.  “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt.20:28).  We thank God for His unutterable benevolence and love toward mankind.  The remembrance of Christ's salvific sufferings through the Eucharist is the basis of His Church, the basis of our Orthodox faith.

I have already written to you concerning the importance of the Holy Eucharist in my previous epistle and now I repeat so that you may firmly remember, that if your first priority is not the Divine Liturgy, served in the Truth, in accordance with regulations established by the Holy Church and given the Holy Spirit is well-pleased, then our Orthodox way of life will be a superficial illusion.  All of us are currently experiencing difficult spiritual times and more than ever each individual must look deeply into his soul and determine: in what state is his Orthodox faith, his zeal for the Church, his readiness to take up his cross and follow Christ?

People who live in the hope of inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven can be sorted into three categories.  Some act out of fear;  they repent of their sins, try to do good, perform works of mercy and observe Church rules out of fear of being excommunicated from the Church and cast into fiery gehenna. They likewise raise their children in fear of smoldering embers, fire and brimstone.  This is a salvific approach, but at the same time if the parents do not devote the appropriate amount of attention to the teaching of the Church on the goodness of God, then those children grow up with a negative impression of God (this topic deserves separate treatment). 

In the second category are those who, observing the faith and the commandments of love toward God and one's neighbor, go regularly to church and perform deeds of mercy in order to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.  They lead a pious life and die in “the hope of resurrection and eternal life”.  And may no one think that there can be anything negative in such a Christian manner of life.  For such a person will hear the benevolent words of the Lord:  “Oh good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Lord.”  Can there be a level higher than this, if this manner of life is praiseworthy and salvific?”

Yes, there is a third and supreme category.  It consists of those who have completely followed Christ. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24).  These people have “renounced” themselves; they no longer are concerned about their health and do not esteem even their very lives. “For whosoever desires to save his life shall lose it;  and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt.16:25).  They do everything without thinking of themselves, not for personal gain or praise and not even for their own salvation, but for the sake of the glory of God!  In their hearts and souls they have completely dedicated themselves to the first and highest commandment:  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul , and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind...” (Lk. 10:27).  Only he who voluntarily endures privations can have within himself true love for God and neighbor.  His entire life is a podvig and he sacrifices himself“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn.15:13).

When the Israelites made a golden calf for themselves, the wrath of God was kindled against them, and God said to Moses:  “(I will) consume them:  and I will make of thee a great nation”, and Moses said:  “(Lord), this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.  Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”  (Ex. 32:10,31,32). …if not, then erase me also from Thy book of Life. What a wonderful example of self-sacrificing love!  In a similar manner, a father or mother would without sparing themselves, cast themselves into fire or water in order to save a son.

The person who joyously fulfills those things required by the Lord God, without expecting any reward receives God's mercy and love.

“Doth he {the master} thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him?  I think not.  So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say:  We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was out duty to do.” (Luke 17:9-10). 

We must ask ourselves in which category are we.  Why does our conscience reproach us for our indifference toward our salvation?  Because we have entirely lost the notion of “podvig” and our lives bear witness to this.

Our parents suffered through much.  They were pursued and persecuted by the godless regime. Each bore his cross without murmuring.  This severe life strengthened them spiritually.  God, in His wise providence preserved and led them to freedom abroad.  Not knowing the language, having no modern conveniences to which we are accustomed, even abroad they continued to be patient laborers, most often working for us, and not for themselves.  Their priority was the free true Church.  They were more concerned for our spiritual upbringing than for earthly goods.  The first thing they did was to gather family and friends, and began to have Divine Liturgy served in homes and establish parishes. Later they would build divine temples.  The spiritual life was flourishing, thanks to which in many regards our lives were joyful.

But this material well-being brought us something undesirable.  In comparison to our parents we have turned out spoiled.  Our parents are not at fault for this for they only wished us well through their labors, cares and prayers for our health and earthly well-being.  We ourselves became preoccupied with earthly “happiness”, a very powerful lure.

It had previously been unheard of that a pleasant temperature in homes would be automatically maintained without our efforts.  In the midst of harsh winter we buy and enjoy tropical fruits.  An enormous assortment of foods which are accessible to us, fill the stores.  King Solomon, who, as it is written, had everything that his heart desired, did not have such a variety in which we do not see anything unusual.  And how many attractive amusements exist thanks to the “magic” of technology?

Unnoticeably for us, all of this has had an effect on us.  We have preserved the faith of our ancestors, but the notion of a personal podvig has become secondary.  Therefore, while it is not too late, while satan has not yet seduced us and our children into accepting the stamp of the anti-Christ, we must diligently look at ourselves, at our children and pay attention to how they spend their time, and be concerned over their souls.  It seems to us that we are trying to observe a Christian life in ourselves and in our children, but in fact we have strayed very far from the “narrow, thorny” way of the cross!

Worst of all, contemporary music, sordid amusements, lasciviousness, the striving to keep in fashion and the other temptations have had a significantly stronger influence on our children than on us, just as earthly pleasures had a stronger influence on us than on our parents.  We know what podvig is, but our children, even though they say they believe in God and love the Church, have no idea what podvig is!

“The judgment is at the door!” Only the faithful who are within the true Orthodox Church see this.  It is obvious for us that all the others who have already landed in the anti-Christ net are concerned only over their earthly well-being.  They prefer not to think about the Dread Judgment.  The fact that it is at the door is not pessimism; it is REALITY!  The fact that the servants of the anti-Christ have already taken everything into their own hands – this is not pessimism; it is reality!  And we face the danger of perishing because we are spoiled – this too is not pessimism but reality!

The anti-Christ will not have to threaten us with torture for not accepting his stamp.  He will simply seize our comforts and pleasures which we have grown to consider vital and in panic we will flock to him.  “How are we going to exist then?” - the misfortunate people will then say.  “We can't sell or buy and yet we have small children! Do we really need to get by without this stamp, identification card or secret number which no one else sees or knows whether I have it?”  (Evidence of loyalty to the anti-Christ may be in any form.)

Recently I heard, how state psychologists have determined that if there is a power failure in cities and food and gas deliveries cease, the population would last for only one week before people begin attacking their neighbors, particularly if hope is lost in the restoration of power. The contemporary Orthodox person is in danger of becoming one of this populace. He has become so coddled in technological comfort that he is no longer capable of carrying his cross, to undertake any sort of spiritual feat, even out of fear of ending up in fiery gehenna.  “I'll survive somehow,” that person will say, but in actual fact he will not stand to the end, he will not retain loyalty to Christ even unto death!  “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev.2:10).

It is imperative for us to overcome the lure of earthly happiness and we can overcome it with God's help.  We know that our priority must be prayer.  Do we pray?  Good.  And of what importance is fasting to us?  Our ancestors approached the matter of fasting very seriously, but for us it has become of lesser importance, far from what it should be.  Fasting must be second only to prayer!  Fasting is not a tradition.  Fasting is indispensable for us. The holy fathers say that prayer and fasting are two wings without which we can not ascend from the earth and draw near to God.  We must direct due attention to fasting as a salvific podvig without which we will perish!  Yes, the Church identifies fasting with podvig.  “Having labored in a good podvig, we finished the course of the fast” - hymns the Church at the end of the fortieth day of the Great Lent.  Without podvig we will not be able to withstand the coming temptations of the anti-Christ.  It is precisely now that we must pull ourselves up and “labor in a good podvig”, not waiting until the net of the anti-Christ lowers itself over us.

One must not be despondent. The Holy Spirit Which is found only in the true Church, will help us.  God in His power will set us and our children straight and keep us all from soul-destroying decisions.  But on our part we must prepare ourselves for a severe life, victimization and persecution, to deprivation and sorrows.  Podvig – bearing one's cross consists of this. Without this cross we cannot be saved.  “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” says the Lord.  With God nothing should frighten or disturb us.

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

December - 2012

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Paschal epistle to the faithful sons and daughters of the North American Diocese

CHRIST IS RISEN!

“Christ is risen, by His death hath He destroyed death and raised up the dead; rejoice o ye people!” triumphantly hymns the Church.  Once again the Holy Church calls upon everyone to be joyous on this luminous day of the Resurrection of Christ.

During the last days of this week the Church piously commemorated the great sacrifice of our Redeemer, Who endured suffering and death “for the sake of the life of the world and of salvation”.  But this redemptive and mystical feat as well as His descent into hades was not understood by the Disciples of Christ who were not yet enlightened by the Holy Spirit. During the previous three years they had been witnesses to so many miracles that, as the Evangelist John the Theologian writes:  “If they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 2l:25).

For them, Jesus Christ was everything; He was both their life and joy!  And suddenly He is not there!  It is impossible for us to imagine that state of despondency and dejection in which the Disciples of Christ found themselves upon seeing their beloved Teacher-Messiah, Life-giver and Lord dead, lying in the tomb.  They were in a state of shock. How could this be? According to their understanding this was not supposed to have occurred. Because of human frailty, they could not contain the words of the Lord which He had spoken one day earlier: “And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you.”  (John 16:22).

And indeed their sorrow turned into eternal joy:  Christ arose on the third day according to what had been foretold!  By the grace of God we did not experience that despairing grief which Cleopas expressed:  “But we trusted that it had been He Which should have redeemed Israel.” (Luke 24:21), and yet we are experiencing the fullness of the joy which was experienced by the Myrrh-bearing women hearing the Angelic tidings:  “Ye seek Jesus, Which was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen as He said.”  (Matt: 28:5,6).

It is very possible that we, like the Disciples, are now experiencing a certain sorrow when we see the apostasy which surrounds us.  Who among us does not ache in the soul upon seeing such a pervasive unrepentant state and apostasy from the Truth of Christ.  But neither this nor any other sorrow or sadness is capable of ruining our Paschal joy over the Vanquisher of death and hell.  Just as for the Disciples of Christ, so it is for us that our Lord Jesus Christ is everything – our life and our joy!  And since Christ suffered for us, opened for us the gates of Paradise and even now sojourns with us, then who can be against us?  In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good courage, for I have conquered the world(John 16:33) says the Lord.

May this Paschal joy be with all of you and may the victorious words “Christ is Risen!” be with you always!

† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

Pascha - 2012

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The Reality of Sergianism

We are often accused of having become obsessed over the Old Calendar as the Old Believers once had over their traditions; that we have become obsessed over ecumenism, but especially over sergianism.

 They say that we, while living in a free society, continue to unjustly accuse the Russian Church of apostasy, not taking into account the entire complexity, the whole “impossibility” of the existence of the Church under communist rule without the the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergei (Stragorodsky), who attempted to “save” the Church.  And that we persist in condemning him despite the fact that Patriarch Alexei II supposedly admitted that it had been a mistake and took that sin upon himself.  Is it not time for us to forgive and forget about this?  But how can one forget if sergianism persists in mercilessly causing the decomposition of the Church of Christ even unto this day!

 The words of the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius “your joys are our joys” remain in force.  And the communist ideology “Whoever is not with us is against us” continue to wield power over them despite the fact that now the word “democrat” replaces the word “communist”.

 Sergianism is the living, God-opposing, destructive and extremely active organism inside  the church organism, which not only continues to exist but also continues to further its abominable anti-Christ agenda.

 We know, that the Godless authority ripped to shreds the Russian soul of old and like never before this soul is in need of correction, of renewal in the Spirit of God, in being reared again in the fear of God.  Yet do we see this coming from the Patriarchate?  The Moscow Patriarchate “in the style of Stragorodsky” carries out orders given by the current Godless authority to annihilate from the consciousness of believers all that which does not serve them or the new world order, i.e., anti-Christ.

 On what basis do we call the current authority “godless”?  Orthodox sovereigns relied on God in their difficult service, while the current government has separated itself from the church.  And whereas it has separated itself from the church of  Christ, it has separated itself from God!  On what basis does the Patriarchate pray “For our God-protected country, authorities, and armed forces...”?  If the current government considers itself to be protected by God, then why were the words “the Cross is the dominion of kings” deleted from the exapostilarion of the feast of the Exaltation of the Lord's Cross:   “The Cross is the guardian of the whole world!  The dominion of kings! The Cross is the confirmation of the faithful! The Cross is the glory of the angels and the wounding of the demons!”?

 Let us cite one more example:  from the troparion to St. George the Trophy-bearer, “As thou art the liberator of captives, and defender of the poor,  physician of the infirm, champion of kings, O victorious great martyr George, entreat Christ God, that our souls be saved.”  In all the new editions the words “champion of kings” have disappeared.

 If these changes were not made on orders from the government, in any case these are nonetheless manifestations of sergianism.  It is not by the communist nor current authorities that any mention of pious kings is eliminated from liturgical books, but by the church authorities!  These books which include modifications were published not under soviet rule, but now, under the new freedom.

 The new world government, having killed the Anointed One of God, has undertaken the re-education of the new generation according to its program, and the Moscow Patriarchate carries out with servility that which is commanded, in order that the Russian person would not know or would forget, without even noticing, that the noble Tsars defeated enemies by the power of the Cross of the Lord and by the prayers and with the help of the holy God-pleasers.

 Currently preparations are underway to adopt a new world government.  Metropolitan Sergei (Stragorodsky) had sold the liberty of the Church and this slavery continues even to this day.  If the Patriarch asserts that they are “free”, he thereby only proves that even to this day they are  destroying things pertaining to the church in order to please the government, following the soviet slogan “not out of fear but out of conscience”.

 The Church of Christ is conciliar.  It cannot be otherwise.  When exactly was it, at which council of MP hierarchs was a resolution adopted to eliminate from liturgical books that which was written by the Holy Fathers of the Church?  And on what basis?

 Sergianism continues to flourish and conduct its destructive program.  Let us not close our eyes under the external guise of “forgiveness” and thereby enable the beguilement.  May God deliver us from this.

†Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

February 19, 2012

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NATIVITY EPISTLE

TO THE FAITHFUL FLOCK OF THE RUSSIAN CHURCH ABROAD
FROM BISHOP STEFAN OF TRENTON AND NORTH AMERICA

December 25, 2011/January 7, 2012

By God's mercy we have once again obtained the opportunity to renew our glorification of the King of Glory for His great condescension, for His incarnation “for the sake of us people and for the sake of our salvation”.  The King of the heavenly hosts, the King of the archangels and angels, becomes the Son of a Virgin.  The Uncontainable God; Whom nothing limits, contains, is limited by the womb of the Virgin, “and takes upon Himself the image of a servant”,  and this Blessed Infant is born in a wretched, earthly cave and is placed in the manger.

We, who have become accustomed to a life of material well-being, do not value, do not realize the grandeur of this joyous, triumphant solemnity.  In order that we should duly comprehend the significance of  this event and give glory to Christ God for His good will toward us, sinners, let us imagine the opposite:  what would it have been, had Christ not been born on this blessed night?  One must remind oneself, that God was not obligated to become incarnate for the sake of our salvation.  But, because of His Great goodness, God willed to become incarnate, and in the form of a human to be the redemptive sacrifice for us. 

Let us imagine, for example, that we live in Old Testament times:  In what a woeful state are we all living!  We do not offer up any bloodless sacrifice (liturgy), and Holy Communion does not exist for us.  Our feasts are crowned with the bloody slaughter of innocent (pure) lambs. Our prayers consist mostly of the reading of the Psalms.  We cannot turn to the saints, asking for their help and intercession, nor can we call upon our most reliable intercessor, the Holy Theotokos.  The words:  “Most Holy Theotokos, save us” do not exist!  We do not make the sign of the cross over ourselves in our warfare against the devil.  The “Cross” as a sign of victory and salvation, exists only prefiguratively as the “serpent lifted up in the wilderness” (John 3:14,15).  Our Pascha is the remembrance of the by-passing of the angel of death (Passover), and through this, the deliverance from Egyptian slavery, which is merely a prefiguration of the salvific Pascha of the resurrected Christ Life-Giver. Such a life is sorrowful and difficult for us, but we do not lose hope that the time will come, when all will change for the better.  We have studied the Holy Scriptures and the prophecies and we know, that God had yet in Paradise laid the foundation for our salvation.  We know that “God who many times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.” (Heb.1:1), heralding to us the coming of the Messiah – Redeemer.

Let us also imagine, that our great grandfather, lying on his deathbed, called everyone together and with profound faith and hope said:  “My children, do not lose hope – even if now it seems to you that I am merely repeating to you the same thing concerning the Redeemer that my great grandfather told me.  There is a new prophesy that He will indeed come soon.  I will not see Him, but my heart rejoices knowing that you and your generation will see the Glory of God.  There are rumors circulating  that there is a pious elder in Jerusalem by the name of Simeon, “and it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.” (Luke 2:26).

That which was long awaited has come to pass!  During the night in the small town of Bethlehem the heavens opened up and man for the first time heard the wondrous words:  “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:10,11).  For the first time man heard the Angelic song glorifying God and the news of joy.  Until then mankind did not know at all what true joy was.  This joy is the joy “in the Lord and in Christ” - and no longer will anyone be able to take that joy away from us.  We have nothing more to despond over, and no longer should anything make us afraid, for God is with us !

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace:  good will among men!

†Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America

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Address to the God-loving Flock of the Australian Diocese of the RTOCA

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The Synod of Met. Agafangel establishes “MP ROCOR(A)”

structures and defines the course to convene the “Local Sobor of the ROC”

with the purpose of “reestablishing canonical church administration of the ROC”

I. “Parishes of the Moscow patriarchate temporarily under the omophorion of the ROCOR(A)”.

The Synod of ROCOR(A) (one of the groups of ROCOR, headed by Met Agafangel (Pashkovsky) established the following status of “parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate temporarily under the omophorion of the ROCOR(A).  The decision in this regard was adopted at the special synod meeting on May 27, 2011.

At this meeting the appeal was considered from the Moscow Patriarchate clergy from Izhevsk: Protopriests Sergei Kondakov, Mikhail Karpeev and Priest Alexander Malikh “to receive them and their faithful with the status of ROC Moscow Patriarchate parishes under the omophorion of ROCOR”.

During discussion of this issue Met. Agafangel expressed an “opinion regarding the potential possibility of such a decision.”  As is recorded in the minutes of the the ROCOR(A) meeting, “the Chairman personally likes this idea, since such a precedent could serve as an important step in the matter of progressing toward a possible Local (Pomestny) Sobor of the free Orthodox Church of Russia.”  Furthermore, Met. Agafangel himself noted  that “there have been no such precedents set yet in the canonical practice of ROCOR.”  After discussing this matter, the ROCOR(A) Synod satisfied the request of the MP clergy of Izhevsk, receiving them into communion “in the capacity of parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate within the structure of the Russian Church Abroad, temporarily  under direct subordination to the First Hierarch, Met. Agafangel until “the re-establishment of a canonical church administration at the Local Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church.” (refer to the statement of the Izhevsk MP clergy dated 05/30/2011).

Instead of clarifying to the MP clergy seeking the Truth the fundamental view of ROCOR regarding the MP as a Sergianist schism and false-church (refer to the clarification by St. Philaret Voznesensky, Met. Anastasy Gribanovsky, Met. Vitaly Ustinov, Archbishop Averky Taushev, Bp. Gregory Grabbe, etc., the Synod of ROCOR(A), for the sake of increasing the numbers of parishes under its omophorion resorted to a gross violation of the traditional confession of faith of ROCOR, faithfulness to which is constantly spoken of by Met. Agafangel. Thereby, the Synod of ROCOR(A) not only deviated from the “traditional ROCOR confession of faith”, but as well essentially recognized the legality and equality of the Sergianist schism as well as the “Moscow Patriarchate” established on its basis by J. Stalin, as a church institution.  After the Synod of Met. Laurus, this jurisdiction is the sole one which officially recognizes the MP as an equivalent “part of the Russian Church”. 

This question bears a principle canonical and ecclesiological significance.  One must note that prior to Stalinist times within the Russian Church, the organization known as the “Moscow Patriarchate”, did not exist as an institution in Russia.  In the Russian Church there was the institution of the patriarchate, which was sometimes unofficially called the “patriarchal church”, but there was no institution known as the “Moscow Patriarchate”.  Hence, in the official name of the Russian Church, the term “Moscow Patriarchate” did not exist.  This is exclusively a Stalinist innovation.  Therefore the very idea of creating within ROCOR a structure with a Stalinist name and abbreviation is nothing less than sacrilege. In essence this is a defamation of the podvig of the Holy New Martyrs and Catacomb Confessors.

Schism is a falling away from the Church, and not “part of the Church”.  Such is the two thousand year old patristic Orthodox teaching.  The Sergianist schism was created by the Soviet organs of the OGPU by the renovationists in 1927 by way of usurping Church authority.  The newly formed structure was named the “Moscow Patriarchate” by the Soviet government.  In 1943, on Stalin's orders, this newly formed structure conclusively acquired its completed form.  Stalin appointed as its “patriarch” the former renovationist metropolitan Sergii (Stragorodsky), and the remains of the renovationist schism poured into its rank.  This structure, newly created by Stalin was given a new name “ROC MP”, instead of the previous name under St. Patriarch Tikhon - “Russian Orthodox Church”. In this manner, the theomachistic regime, on the basis of the Sergian and and renovationist schism, artificially created a completely new structure, which, even by name, differed from the lawful Russian Church.

It is possible that within ROCOR(A) there is not yet a full understanding what they have done, but a fact remains a fact.  This decision is equivalent in meaning to establishing parallel structures within ROCOR(A) of Greek Catholics, Monophisites or Arians.  However, “there have not yet been such precedents in canonical practice” not only in ROCOR (as Met. Agafangel noted) but within the practice of universal Orthodoxy.  The holy canons precisely regulate the rules and form of receiving persons from schisms or heretical associations.  And in them there is not even a hint of the possibility of creating within the bosom of the Church various schismatic structures.  And the fact that the MP is a schism and a heretical association has already been defined in the teachings of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia with whom St. Philaret Voznesensky and other outstanding ROCOR holy hierarchs were in complete solidarity.(see link).

From a political point of view, the decision to create a structure “Moscow Patriarchate under the omophorion of ROCOR(A)” (abbreviated: “MP ROCOR(A)” may appear to be tactically correct, however from a church-canonical perspective it is categorically unacceptable.  Such a decision could only have been adopted  as a consequence of the distortion of church canonical awareness and Orthodox teaching of the Church which occurred within ROCOR(A).  This is a result of the unorthodox teaching of Met. Agafangel concerning the MP and ROCOR being “two parts of one Church”.  Such a teaching is incompatible with True Orthodoxy and in its root contradicts the confession of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, who taught that the MP is a schism and heretical association, but under no circumstances a “part of the Church”.

It is noteworthy that the ROCOR(A) Synod and the MP clergy signed an Act on restoring relations, which, according to the words of those who signed it, is an alternative to the Act establishing communion between ROCOR(L) and the MP in 2007.

Commenting on this decision, the clergy of Izhevsk in a letter to MP Met. Nikolai of Izhevsk and Udmurtia announce that “while remaining priests within the Moscow Patriarchate, we have joined the Russian Church Abroad'”.  In another statement, the Izhevsk clergy confirmed that they are preserving their status namely as clergy within the MP, clarifying, that they “have not departed from the Church which gave them birth through the Spirit”, and that they are temporarily remaining under the omophorion of Met. Agafangel “in the capacity of parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate”. (refer to the statement of the Izhevsk clergy on 05/30/2011).

In its essence this statement is reminiscent of the intercatholic movement of the sedevacans (from the Latin sedes-throne; vacans- vacant), who considered the Roman throne to be temporarily vacant because the current popes had deviated into modernism. In that situation, the sedevacans did not sever ties with the Roman Catholic church, although they maintain relations  with the lefevrists and other traditional movements of the RCC.  The patriarchal sedevacans (non-commemorators) also consider the MP itself to be completely lawful and Orthodox (just as the Catholic sedevacans consider the RCC to be lawful), however, in their opinion, the patriarchal throne, after the election of Kirill Gundyaev, has become temporarily vacant.  This is confirmed by the Izhevsk MP clergy themselves, who in an interview to Portal-credo to the question “Have they separated themselves from the MP bishops?” clarified: “We are rejecting the patriarch, of course.  For us the Moscow cathedra is dowager.”

Further, the clergy specified, that they have not risen in opposition against the MP as such, but against “the defects of the Church administration”.  In their opinion “the Moscow Patriarchate, even under the yoke of sergianism and ecumenists attempted to preserve holy orthodoxy among its best representatives.” “We don't want to go anywhere from the Moscow Patriarchate for it is a grace-filled church organism, which has preserved its grace, the grace of God, despite all of these perversions.  And we remain within the Moscow Patriarchate as within a grace-filled church organism, but we reject this graceless, administrative ruling structure,” said the clergy of  “ROC MP temporarily under ROCOR(A) omophorion”, clarifying their position.

According to the words of a long time supporter of the idea of “unifying ROCOR with the healthy forces within the MP”, M. Nazarov, “this act, on the initiative of the Udmurtia clergy was formulated in a new way:  not as a crossing over, but as a true unification of the healthy part of ROC MP with ROCOR...  In this manner, the clergy of Udmurtia, canonically being under the omophorion of ROCOR as a part of the Russian Orthodox Church, at the same time consider themselves to the an independent part of ROC MP, which on its part is also only a part of the anticipated One Russian Orthodox Church”.

The head of ROCOR(A) also confirmed such a status for the MP parishes, stating, that “we, at the Synod of Bishops adopted the decision to receive the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate under the pastorship of the hierarchy of ROCOR”. He stated, “such a decision, in essence, opens up a real path toward the coming Local Sobor of the ROC”, which, according to his thinking, could very plausibly  include representatives of the “three parts of ROC” - ROCOR(A) itself, “MP parishes under the omophorion of ROCOR(A), and the inner-patriarchal catacomb movement “the Sekachevtsy” (under the guise of the Catacomb Church”, which are also under the omophorion of ROCOR(A).

A more detailed discussion on the idea of convening a “local sobor” within the framework of the ROCOR(A) structure will follow.  But here one should direct one's attention to the canonical collision in which ROCOR(A) now finds itself.  Pursuant to the logic of the latest decision of the Synod of Met. Agafangel, all hierarchs, clergy and parishes of ROCOR(A) on the territory of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States – transl.) from now on must be called not “ROCOR” but “MP ROCOR”, since all of them, without exception came over from the MP, including Met. Agafangel himself (just as did seven of his Russian bishops).  Even the “Sekachevtsy” bishops and clergy of ROCOR(A) are not indigenous catacomb members, but came over in the 1990's from the MP.  The status of all the parishes and clergy who came over from the MP does not differ from the status of the newly established “MP ROCOR” parishes.  Contrary to the genuine Abroad parishes of the USA and Latin America (which are currently a minority  within the structure of ROCOR(A)), the newly formed ROCOR(A) structures on  post-Soviet territory  were indigenous MP.  Likewise the newly formed ROCOR(A) Synod, which functions not in the Abroad, but on post-Soviet territory, is comprised mostly of former MP people.  Therefore, in accordance with the latest decision of the Synod of Met. Agafangel, it is more correct to call all those structures which came out of the MP “MP ROCOR(A)”.  This will address the very essence of the newly established formations.

II. New tendencies within ROCOR(A) and their roots.

A theological-canonical assessment of the decisions of the Synod of Met. Agafangel is still to be made, however, even now it is clear that we have an opportunity to observe the inception of a completely new  flow, which has nothing in common with the former ROCOR.  Based on all we are seeing, in ROCOR(A) a tendency now prevails toward creating within the framework of the so called “Local Sobor”, another “Local Russian Church” comprised of the representatives of ROCOR(A), the MP and the “Sekachevtsy”.  This is not a new idea.  In particular it is being actively developed within the so called “Orthodox Russian Church” of the former colonel of the GRU USSR (equivalent of US  CIA – transl.), Prokopiev, currently “Metropolitan” Raphael Motovilov.  Claims to the status of “Local Church” are also being made by “RusOC-1” and “RusOC-2”.  However, it appears that ROCOR(A) has adopted the “Raphael” scenario for a basis.

Speaking of the tendencies within ROCOR(A) it is imperative to focus on their ideological spokesmen. Within this context it is quite characteristic  that ROCOR(A), besides instituting an “independent part of ROC MP”, has received from the “Raphaelian” sect a group of parishes headed by “metropolitan” Nikolai Modebadze.  Having consecrated him bishop, the ROCOR(A) Synod appointed him vicar of the Synod Chairman “to serve Georgian parishes within the rank of ROCOR with the title “Bishop of Potina”.  Furthermore when questioned about the legitimacy of the sacraments he performed while he was with the self-consecrated sect of Raphael Prokopiev, Met. Agafangel indicated that “all sacred ministry performed by the priest Nikolai in the past, could not be subject to doubt when he was being received into ROCOR.”

One should note, that the teaching of the “Raphaelites”, their telepathic-healing practice seriously contradicts the teaching of the Orthodox Church.  Therefore, the entry into ROCOR(A) of a group of “Raphaelite” parishes headed by Bishop Nikolai Modebadze cannot but affect the spiritual situation within ROCOR(A), as well as the spiritual practices of its clergy.  The more ROCOR(A) receives into its ranks representatives of various  dubious groups and movements (“Sekachevtsy”, “Raphaelites”, Ukrainian Autocephalites, etc.) the fewer are the numbers in its ranks of indigenous Abroad representatives of the former ROCOR, and the less ROCOR(A) has in common with the former ROCOR.  Essentially, this is no longer ROCOR, but a completely new structure, functioning primarily on post-Soviet territory, using the old brand name of ROCOR.

Within the context of ROCOR(A) convening a so called “Local Sobor of ROC”, it is indicative, that the newly received “Raphaelite” hierarch Nikolai Modebadze had already tried to implement this idea within the “Raphaelite” midst.  So, in 2003 he was one of the initiators of the “Unifying Sobor”, when the extra-sensory healer “metropolitan” Raphael Prokopiev was declared “First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.”  It was then announced within this group that preparations were underway to convene a “Local Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church”, at which the institutions of supreme church authority in Russia would be re-established headed by an alternative “patriarch of Moscow and all Russia”. “Metropolitan” Raphael was nominated as candidate for the post of alternative “patriarch”, and he was declared “locum tenens of the patriarchal throne”.  However, because of subsequent splits within this group, the venture to convene a “Local Sobor of the Russian Church”, and the election of an alternative “patriarch of Moscow” could not be carried out.

Judging from everything, currently the baton has been taken up by the head of ROCOR(A), Met. Agafangel, to convene the “Local Sobor of the ROC”.  Having received into his group hierarchs from the “Sekachevtsy” and “Raphaelites”, and also instituting “parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate temporarily under the omophorion of ROCOR(A)”. he has in practice repeated the propositions of Raphael Prokopiev-Motovilov on “opening up a viable path toward the forthcoming Local Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church, since under our Synod of Bishops representatives of the two other parts of the Russian Church – the Catacomb and Moscow Patriarchate have united.”

Having officially announced the course toward convening the “Local Sobor of the ROC”, consisting of representatives of ROCOR(A) MP, and also “Sekachevtsy” and “Raphaelites”, the followers of ROCOR(A) have also already defined its objectives - “the re-establishment of canonical church administration at the Local Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church”.  Traditionally such administration (rule) would imply the institute of the patriarchal throne.  Therefore, it is not excluded, that in the foreseeable future, the first hierarch of ROCOR(A) will bear the title not only of “Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America, Archbishop of Taurida and Odessa, managing the dioceses of Odessa and Zaporozhie”, but also the title of “Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia”, as the head of the next “Local Russian Church”.  This step may also receive the virtual telephone blessing of the deposed Patriach Yerenei of Jerusalem, with whom the head of ROCOR(A), not long ago by telephone established “prayer and eucharistic communion”.

However sad, such fears are not unfounded.  The manner in which Bp. Agafangel obtained for himself the title “First Hierarch of ROCOR” gives cause for speculation.

As is broadly known, the “statement” by Bishop Daniel of Erie on the establishment of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority and the appointment of Bishop Agafangel as its head is a forgery.  This was witnessed to by Bishop Daniel himself, who confirmed that he was “led into confusion” by the supporters of Bp. Agafangel, and that in fact he never even read the “statement on establishing a PSEA.  Here are the original words of Bishop Daniel:  “I never thought that ordained persons could be so shameless to say and do such falsehood.”

By yet another window dressing the title of “sixth first hierarch of ROCOR” was appropriated by Bishop Agafangel as well as  “Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America”.  To this end in 2008 a meeting of a small group of former ROCOR(L) clergy consisting of 30 persons was held, which was declared to be the “V Pan-Abroad Sobor”, when this small group could not in any way have claimed the status of “All Abroad” and the “fullness of ROCOR”.  Nor were the protests of several authoritative clergy and laypersons of ROCOR, delegates at the Sobor taken into account, and as a sign of protest they were forced to leave ROCOR(A).

The creation of a ROCOR(A) hierarchy was uncanonical, the ordination of which was carried out through the gross interference into the internal affairs of the local Russian Church by representatives of the Greek Synod of Met. Cyprian, who is in a state of schism from the canonical synod of the TOC of Greece.  Having received its consecrations from one of the Greek groups which unlawfully invaded the auspices of another Local Church, ROCOR(A) essentially forfeited its succession from the Russian Church and therefore in all regards is a new formation.

III. The Sekachevsty ecclesiology and ROCOR(A)

In the anticipated “Local Sobor”, it is expected, according to the words of Met. Agafangel, that besides ROCOR(A) and the MP, the Catacomb Church will participate.  Whom does Met. Agafangel imply under the name “Catacomb Church”, is not difficult to surmise.  He is speaking not of the Catacomb people but of the “Sekachevtsy”. It is quite obvious that he is counting on them.

This uncanonical group never fully severed its spiritual-canonical ties with the MP, because of which it is sometimes referred to as the “internal-patriarchal catacombs”..  Its founder, “Schemetropolitan Gennadii Sekach” until the end of his life was an officially ranking MP retired clergyman, and many of the secret “bishops” “consecrated” by him continued to officially serve as rank and file clergy within the MP (Anthony Piletsky, Heruvim Degtiar, Vasilii Belyak, Adrian Lapin, etc.)  Furthermore, they permitted their flock to receive communion not only in their home churches but in MP churches.  And one of the leaders of the “Sekachevtsy”, Epifanii Kaminsky, prior to going into schism in 1999, considered the entire Sekachevtsy movement to be one inexhorable whole with the MP, calling the latter “our Church”, and the Sergianist hierarchs “our hierarchs”. (refer to the letter of M. Epifanii to nun Irene, January, 1994).

The Catacomb clergy of Tikhon-Joseph succession never recognized the “Sekachevtsy” and forbade their flock to receive any of their ministry. This attitude toward the “Sekachevtsy” has been maintained even until now within the historical communities of the Catacomb Church.  Also, the lawful ROCOR did not recognize “Sekachevtsy ordinations”.  Thus, the ROCOR Sobor of Bishops in its Resolution from May 2/15, 1990 (Protocol #6) announced, that “The Sobor cannot recognize the canonicity of ordinations of this catacomb group”.  Also the ROCOR Sobor of Bishops in 1990, concerning the absence of canonical hierarchical succession among the “Sekachevtsy” resolved, that “it does not find it possible, in view of the absence (or the inability to produce) required proof, to recognize the validity of apostolic succession and canonicity of the ordinations of these underground hierarchies”. (Record from the Chancellory of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, #4/77/133 from 2/15.8.1990).  Therefore all clergy ordained by “Sekachevtsy” hierarchs were received by ROCOR exclusively through new, canonical consecrations, that is through hirotonia.  Furthermore, if a “priest” was being received, ROCOR ordained him first as reader, and only after that to the rank of presbyter, as is required by the canons.  This canonical principle was observed by ROCOR up until the signing of the Act on Unification with the MP.  Unfortunately, within the Synod of ROCOR(A), this Sobor Resolution has been trampled upon.

Bp. Agafangel himself wrote concerning the Sekachevtsy group in 1994:  “There exist also false-catacombs.  They unite the faithful, who at one time had put their trust in people who claimed to be lawfully consecrated bishops , but in fact had no confirmation of their consecrations.  According to Church Rules, bishops or priests with unconfirmed hirotonia are not received. (33rd Apostolic Rule).” (“Vestnik TOC”, No. 2, 1994).

However, already in 2008, having created his own group, Bp. Agafangel cardinally alters his views on this matter.  Having rejected previous ROCOR Sobor Resolutions, the Synod of Met. Agafangel recognized the lawfulness of the self-consecrating “Sekachevtsy Hierarchy”, receiving into communion “bishops” Athanasy (Savitzky) and Ioann (Zaitsev).  In this process, in order to remove any suspicion, additional hirotesias were performed over them, which are different from hirotonia, and are performed as a means of supplementing the hirotonia only over bishops and priests who prior to this have been ordained by lawful hierarchs but with some violation of canonical norms.  It was precisely for this reason that the ROCOR Synod performed hirotesia over the Matthewite bishops of the TOC of Greece,   the hierarchy of which originated from one bishop, when the canons require that no fewer than two or three bishops participate in episcopal consecrations.  However, this precedent had absolutely nothing in common with the self-consecrated “Sekachevtsy” hierarchy, who have a complete absence of apostolic succession, and its originators Seraphim Pozdeev and Gennadii Sekach were never bishops.

ROCOR(A) is perfectly aware of this, however, they prefer to circumvent this issue.  The “Sekachevtsy”ecclesiology is very suited to the new ideology of ROCOR(A) or “MP ROCOR(A)”.  Therefore it is not surprising, that in laying the foundation for the idea of convening a “Local Sobor” consisting of the “three parts of the ROC”, Met. Agafangel leans not on the traditional communities of the Catacomb Church (of which there are none under the omophorion of ROCOR(A)), but on the “Sekachevtsy”, deliberately passing them off to be the “Catacomb Church”. Furthermore, those “Sekachevtsy” bishops and priests who came under the omophorion of ROCOR(A) had themselves come over to the “Sekachevtsy” from the Moscow Patriarchate only in the early 1990's and thereby have no connection to the Catacombs.

IV. The ROCOR(A) teaching on the “two parts of the one Church”

In examining the matter of instituting “MP ROCOR(A)” structures and announcing a course to convene a “Local ROC Sobor” with the purpose of “re-establishing a canonical church administration of ROC”, one should pay attention to not only the ecclesiology of the “Sekachevtsy” and “Raphaelites”, but that of Met. Agafangel himself.  It appears, that on the given issue, his views are very close to the two aforementioned groups, and are even more liberal than the views of the Greek Synod of Resistance of Met. Cyprian.  These views have simply not yet been formulated in a theological doctrine form.

However, even from his brief statements it is obvious that this ecclesiology seriously differs from not only the confession of faith of the Holy New Martyrs and Catacomb Confessors, but even St. Philaret (Voznesensky) and other outstanding holy hierarchs of ROCOR.

The Synod of Bishops of RTOC drew attention to this back in 2007, pointing out the unorthodoxy of Bp. Agafangel's theory on the “two parts of the Russian Church”. (link: “The Dubious Ecclesiology of Bp. Agafangel”).

At the time, it seemed to many that the RTOC Synod was exaggerating, and that Bp. Agafangel was gradually straightening out and rejecting his former errors.  However, now it is obvious that he not only renounced those views but has now begun to actively implement them.

As was noted in the Resolution of the Third Pan-Russian Meeting of hierarchs, clergy, monastics and laity of the RTOC on 9/22 December 2007, “Besides canonical violations on the part of Bp. Agafangel and the PSEA, between this newly formed group and the RTOC there are serious differences of an ecclesiological nature, primarily in the attitutude toward the Sergianist Moscow Patriarchate and the New Calendar ecumenical so called “Official Orthodoxy.””

The RTOC then indicated that: “By calling the MP a “part of the one Church” Bp. Agafangel does not exclude the possibility of unification with the MP in the future after a so called “local sobor”... The idea of convening a “local sobor” occupies a key place in the ecclesiology of Bp. Agafangel. Let us quote a series of principle statements made by Bp. Agafangel on this subject:

1.      “I, recognizing the desirability of unification of the two parts of the one Church, protested then and protest now against that form of unification which is described in the Act.  I have proposed my own particular opinion of another form and scenario for unifying the separate parts of the Russian Church. I quote: “We can only temporarily, until the convening of a Local Council, mutually recognize or not recognize the lawfulness of the existence of certain or other parts of the Church with their existing church leadership, on the condition that there be a recognition of the absence as of today of a legitimately elected Supreme Church Authority... In achieving unanimity on the questions of ecumenism and sergianism, and mutual recognition of the supremacy in the ROC of the forthcoming Local Sobor, we can establish eucharistic union, without creating, naturally, a common supreme authority”.  This will then be our canonical and eucharistic unity, necessary, according to the words of Fr. Nikolai, for mutual participation in the II Local Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church.  In this manner, in my proposal on the unification there will be no impediments to convening the Local Council” (Bp. Agafangel, June 2, 2006).

2.      “In my understanding, the basic sin of sergianism lies in violating the dogma on conciliarity in the Church.  In this sense, the very action of conducting a free Local Sobor of the MP (similar to our Pan-Abroad Sobors) will then be the best evidence of repentance for the sin of sergianism and the re-establishment of a conciliar order..  Regarding the Local Sobor, I can only repeat what I wrote earlier – the establishment of eucharistic ties upon mutually recognizing a common ecclesiology and preserving the existing status of the parts of the Local Russian Church is amply sufficient for joint particiation in the Local Sobor, which alone is authorized to define the legitimate canonical arrangement of the fullness of the Russian Church.” (Bp. Agafangel, Sept. 12,2006).

3.      “The result of the Local Sobor of all the parts of the Church must become the “Act on the reunification of the separated parts of the Russian Church” and a common hierarchy ratified by concensus.” (Bp. Agafangel, April30, 2006).

4.      “We all sincerely desire the unity of the Russian Church, however we feel that the time for this has not yet come... We cannot recognize Patriarch Alexei II as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, since such can only be elected by a Local Sobor of the ROC, which has not been convened since 1918.(Bp. Agafangel, October 12, 2006).

5.      “We have proposed a different variant for building our relations with the MP and we hope that our Synod will review this plan.” (Bp. Agafangel, October 16, 2006). “Our diocesan meeting appeals to the Synod with a request to review this proposal, since we are convinced, that  its adoption will protect our Church from a split and will bring the process of rapprochement into a calm, constructive framework.” (Bp. Agafangel, October 12, 2006). 

Even from these few quotes it is obvious that in the dialogue on the “unification of the two parts of the one Church” Bp. Agafangel sees the main problem to be the need to convene a joint “local sobor” with the MP in which he too would be able to participate on equal footing with the MP hierarchs/.../

Through these facts and statements one may make a judgment on the real “ecclesiology” of Bp. Agafangel and his true attitude toward the heresy of ecumenism”. (Link: Resolution ot the 333 Pan Russian Meeting of hierarchs, clergy, monastics and laiety of RTOC, 9/22 December, 2007) 

It is evident that Met. Agafangel (Pashkovsky) is quite consistent in his confession of the MP and ROCOR as being “two parts of one Church”.  Therefore in making his decision on establishing the structures “MP ROCOR(A)” there is nothing surprising or new.  From Met. Agafangel's quotes cited above it is clear that for him the problem does not lie in ecclesiological or canonical differences between the MP and TOC.  It is evident that Met. Agafangel sees the main problem as the administrative impediment, and not  the uncanonicity of the current MP patriarch, just as Alexei II – in the absence of a “conciliar decision” on the patriarchal rank as the head of the MP (“We cannot recognize Patriarch Alexei II as head of the entire Russian Orthodox Church, since only a Local Sobor of ROC can elect him as such, not having been convened since 1918.” Met. Agafangel). Thus, Met. Agafangel's idea of a Local Sobor eclipses the traditional confession of ROCOR, the attitude toward the sergianist schism and the heresy of ecumenism, anathematized at the ROCOR Sobor of 1983.  And the creation of “MP ROCOR(A)” makes possible the future unification with the MP, circumventing issues of canonical impediments, the uncanonical creation of the MP in the 1930-40 period on the basis of the sergianist and renovationist schisms,  ROCOR's conciliar anathema of the heresy of ecumenism, etc., and thereby brings closer, the anticipated “local sobor”.

Met. Agafangel's teaching on the MP and ROCOR being “two parts of the one Church” is incompatible with True Orthodoxy and at its root contradicts the confession of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia who taught that the MP is a schism and assembly of heretics, but in no way is it a “part of the Church”.  This unorthodox teaching is unacceptable for the TOC.  Met. Agafangel himself understands this, for he had several times emphasized that ROCOR(A) out of principle has nothing common with the TOC.  Just as the MP views the TOC as “sectarianism”, so does Met. Agafangel. However, unlike ROCOR(A), the historic ROCOR always confessed its oneness and unity namely with the TOC and not the MP.  And it always considered the TOC to be Church in the homeland, and not the MP.  All of this yet again confirms  that the structure formed by Met. Agafangel has nothing in common with the historic ROCOR.  This newly formed offshoot of the apostatic ROCOR(L) formed in 2007 can more likely be classified as a type of intermediate structure between apostatic “Official Orthodoxy” and True Orthodoxy, but with a clearly expressed leaning toward “Official Orthodoxy”.

In this connection, the warnings published back in 2008 in the Journal of the Society of the Most Blessed Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky “Fidelity” (#108, May 28, 2008) concerning the real danger in the future of concluding a new union between the representatives of ROCOR(A) and the MP on new, more “universal conditions” remain very actual.

 Office of the Synod of Bishops RTOC

23 May/5 June, 2011, Holy Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council

Источник: сайт "Церковные Ведомости"

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The Paschal Epistle to the God-loving Flock
of the North American Diocese

Christ is Risen!

Yesterday I was crucified with Thee:  Yesterday I was buried with Thee, O Christ; today I rise with Thine arising!  Yesterday, the Church remembered with trembling the redemptive feat of Christ, Who gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  But today the spirit within us all gratefully rejoiced in our Savior God.  Our souls magnify Christ the Life-giver, arisen on the third day from the grave.

The cause of our triumphal celebration is that through the great service of Christ Our God, heaven has been opened unto us!  This day was only the beginning of our joy, “the beginning of eternal life”.  But originally no one, not even the disciples of Christ, understood the essence of this redemptive mystery.  And this is not surprising, for not having yet been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they could not grasp that which surpassed “every mind”, all of human wisdom.  This was even “a mystery unknown to the Angels”.  Nonetheless, the disciples and those faithful to Christ, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, foretasted this eternal joy. “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.” (Luke 24: 45-46).

Here it is important to pay particular attention to the following:  having accomplished His earthly feat, our Lord Jesus Christ no longer appeared to mankind.  He was seen in His resurrected glorified body during the course of His last forty days on earth only by the faithful.  “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”  (John 14:19), said the Lord to His disciples during their farewell conversation.  Evidently surprised by these words, one of the disciples, Judas (not Iscariot) asks Christ:  “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” The Lord answered him saying:  If a man love me, he will keep my words.” (John 14:23).

One must not only contemplate this, but one should shudder realizing that only those who keep the Words of the Lord will be vouchsafed worthy to behold the Glorified Christ in His Kingdom without end.  It is very sad for those who, having tasted Paschal joy here on our sinful earth, would turn out to be unfaithful to the Words of the Lord, having succumbed to false words and distorted teaching, and sold this priceless pearl – the One, True Church of Christ for the sake of worldly glory or happiness.

Is it surprising for us that our brethren of yesteryear sold “that which they held”?  Let us consider the Roman soldiers who were ordered to guard the dead body and tomb of the King of Glory.  They became witnesses of a most astounding event – a strong earthquake occurred, for the Angel of the Lord had descended from the heavens in all his glory, had pushed aside the rock from the entrance of the tomb and was sitting upon it.  “His countenance was like lightning”, writes the Evangelist Matthew, “And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead.” (Matt: 28:4).  Having regained consciousness, the soldiers became convinced that this was not a vision but a real occurrence – the tomb had been opened and the Angel remains seated on the rock.  In fear they ran and told the chief priests all that had happened.  They were among the first witnesses of the resurrection of Christ!  They saw something which must have become indelibly imprinted in their minds and no force on earth could persuade them that what had occurred was something insignificant.  Yet, what actually happened?  For the sake of silver pieces, they unabashedly proceeded to attempt to slander Christ's resurrection.  One asks, what was it that these unfortunate soldiers acquired with this money?  Was it glory?  Happiness?

But the chief priests, elders and custodian soldiers were unsuccessful in slandering the resurrection of Christ.  It never happens, that slander or falsehood could replace truth forever.  This faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ is that faith which has conquered the world.  And we, His inheritance through His Holy Church, continue to confess our crucified and resurrected Savior.

For us there is no earthly glory which could compare to the glory which we lift up to the One, to Whom is due all glory, honor and worship – our Savior Christ.  There is no earthly happiness which could compare with the happiness which our Redeemer brought to earth.  There is a custom on New Year's eve to say “Greetings on the New Year, wishing you new happiness”.  We do not need, nor do we expect any “new” happiness.  The happiness which knows no bounds is the one we acquired once and for all on that luminescent “day which the Lord has made”, on the day of Holy Pascha.  Where is your victory, o hades?  Christ is risen and you have been overthrown.  Christ is risen, and life perpetuates!

May the peace of God and joy in the Lord rest upon you, dear brethren and sisters in Christ, on this appointed and holy day of Pascha.

†Bishop Stefan of Trenton and North America

Pascha, 2011

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Sermon on the Sunday of Orthodoxy

Bishop Stefan of Trenton and North America

February 28 / March 13, 2011

On this, the first week of the Great Lent, when we are attempting to correct our personal lives before the Lord God, the Church triumphantly exalts our Orthodox faith.  Thereby, She reminds us, that salvation depends not on us, no matter how righteous we may be, but that we are saved by the grace of God which pours forth abundantly through the Church of Christ.  Our salvation depends on our faith:  “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  (John 17:3).  This is what comprises salvation:  that we must believe in the Only-begotten Son of God and all His Truth which Christ revealed to us through the Holy Spirit.

One must pay due attention to the word “Truth”.  The enemy of God and the human race, satan, by means of falsehood beguiled Adam in Paradise.  Since that day, even until today enmity exists between God and the devil, between the Church of Christ and the cunning deceiptfulness (“wickedness” - King James version) of Belial.  But now, particularly in these last days before the Second Coming of Christ, satan has opened up all of his wicked nets in order to entrap the faithful and completely destroy the Church of Christ.  But She will remain standing until the Second Coming.  We, the warriors of Christ, are charged with the duty of preserving in Truth the purity of His Church. We must by no means permit any falsehood, any manner of compromise, even that which might be secretly concealed to enter into the Sheep's Pasture.  There is no place for wicked falsehood in the Church of Christ.

Whoever permits any type of compromise with those who are outside the Church, thereby invites the enemy of Christ, the devil, into the Church of Christ, and this is completely impermissible.  There is nothing in common between Christ and Belial.  We must not forget; rather, we must remember that in the New Testament there is an account of only one solitary case, when God struck someone dead.  The wrath of God befell those people not for fornication, not for murder, including those who crucified Christ Himself, but for falsehood!

In chapter five of the Book of Acts of the Holy Apostles, the life of the first Christian community is described:  “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold;  and laid them down at the apostles' feet:  and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need... But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.  And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet.  But (Apostle) Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?... Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.  And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost:... And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.  And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?  And she said, Yea, for so much.  Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?  Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.  Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost... And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.” (Acts: 4:34 – 5:11).

It would seem that Ananias had not stolen from someone, but had conspired with his wife to hold back part for themselves “just in case”.  Their action, it would seem, was a personal sin, having no relation to the Christian community.  Through this event, everyone is forewarned that any lie or cunning deception is a God-opposing spiritual infection which must be eradicated and cut off!  One distortion of truth produces a second, and third....

There are decent people, who on account of their kindness see no need for stern anathemas.  “Did not God command us to love everyone, forgive everyone and judge no one?” they say.  “We all have one judge, our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Yes, this is true.  After His resurrection from the dead, as the Evangelist Matthew relates to us, Christ exclaims:  “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”  (Matt:28:18).  Since our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, God the Father “so hath given to the Son to have life in himself:  and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” (John: 5:26,27).  Our Lord Jesus Christ will be the judge of all, living and dead.

We see how those who have become involved in ecumenism or sergianism use these words in order to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.  The teaching of Christ “do not judge” is true, however it concerns our personal transgressions amongst each other.  According to His divine wisdom, the Lord has passed judgment down to us, the servers of His Church:  “Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt: 18:18)  This is how it must be!

We are the warriors of Christ.  In any army discipline and undisputed submission are paramount.  When suspensions and excommunications (punishments) cease, then self-willed arbitrariness and collapse begin, which lead to ultimate destruction.  The Church cannot permit this.  Let us take one example:  the escapades in the Western Roman Catholic Church after it severed itself from the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs and Holy Fathers of the Church.  The Roman hierarchs and popes should have restrained and curtailed things that were not good and not permissible but they did not do this.  Because of this, not only heretical teaching, but even sacrilege became accepted and common phenomena in their churches!  Artists appeared who began to depict on boards or out of marble, of which the holy scriptures say “Creating His Angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire”.  These holy “Bodiless Hosts”, that is those who are “without flesh”, the artists decided to depict in the form of naked infant boys with all their physical details.  Such sacrilege, and yet none of the hierarchs of the Western Church stopped them.  And what was the result?  As the centuries passed by, matters became progressively worse.  Now their heretical distortions have reached such proportions that they no longer prepare the faithful for eternal blessedness, but to receive the anti-Christ!  Was it for this that Christ laid the foundation of His salvific Church?  Can their church possibly call itself “salvific”?  This is what tolerance of heretics and apostates from God lead to!

We do not curse anyone.  We have no right to curse.  But our duty is to cut off those, who harm the Church and are a pitfall for the faithful.  Man has never yet heard God's curse.  One should recall, that after Adam's fall into sin, God did not curse him, but the land:  “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life...” (Genesis 3:17)  Man will for the first time hear the Lord curse him, “those standing on the left” at the Dread Judgment, and there is nothing more terrifying than this!  The Church does not curse.  She cuts off from the Orthodox community the unrepentant impious, just as a surgeon is forced to remove gangrene from the infected member, so that the entire body does not become infected and perish.

We do not rashly anathematize those who succumbed to heretical teaching, but in every manner possible we write and admonish our fellow brethren to depart from the wicked.  In like manner we do not criticize frivolously, over “trifles”, but warn the faithful of the cunning devices of the enemy of our salvation, the devil and his earthly servants.  Our brethren are presented with that which is forbidden by the Church, in a tender manner, under the guise of Christian love.  They are presented with sweetened poison on a golden platter, which does not instantly kill, through this forewarning others, yet gradually their spiritual discernment darkens and leads to indifference (lukewarmness).  We see this happening before our very eyes to our brethren who have joined the Congregation of the Evil-doers.  For them interaction with heretics has become acceptable for the sake of love and “trivia” no longer disturb them.  They shrug their shoulders saying that “God is higher than all the trivia” over which we take issue.

The Holy Church calls this Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Triumph of Orthodoxy, victory over these and other such devious craftiness of the enemy.  Today we must take with us from Church and remember for our entire lives, that there is nothing more important, nothing can compare to remaining faithful to Christ in all things unto death.  Without this faithfulness, no fast or good works will save us.

At the beginning of the service “The Order of Orthodoxy” the Church first of all offers up prayers for our lost brethren.  This prayer is particularly valuable because many of us have not only friends, but even relatives, who for various reasons have gone into schism.  Especially moving are the words of Christ which reveal the love for mankind of our Father and God:  “It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matt:18:14).  Recently, we have been receiving letters from people, including clergy, whose eyes are opening, and having realized the wicked cunning and treachery of the ecumenists and company, they are seeking the True Church.  May the Lord God hear our prayers and bring back our fellow brethren to the joy of the Angels, New Martyrs of Russia and all the saints.  “And if so be that he find it, (the lost sheep), verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.”  (Matt: 18:13).

†Bishop Stefan

Sunday of Orthodoxy, 2011

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Thought for the day

"No one is without sin" and "We all make mistakes" are not valid excuses for lies and deceptive practices in Church matters. When a priest or bishop gets comfortable with deception, or practices it in any form, he ceases to be a faithful servant of Christ's True Church. His teachings and blessings become but a mimicry of Christ's Truth and Light.

 

† Bishop Stefan

12/19/2010

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Hieromonk Lawrence (Williams) passed away in his secluded Holy Royal Martyrs of Russia Hermitage near the City of Etna, California


Hieromonk Lawrence reposed in the Lord. Father Lawrence was a student and friend of Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) of blessed memory.

Fr. Lawrence, after a period of isolation, was received in the past two years under the omophor of Bishop Stefan of Trenton, New Jersey (ROCOR).
He maintained a strong defense of personal constitutional liberty.

In an age where folks randomly banter about the meaning of the life of Fr Seraphim and the old ROCOR (and arrogantly speak with authority about what they taught and meant though they were never there), there remain fewer and fewer of those who not only remember those days, but remember those luminaries and counted them as friends and teachers, not textbooks from which to cite polemic.

Memory Eternal!

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The Joyous Feast of the Pumpkin (Halloween)

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6/25/2010

False and/or Misleading Statements

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INTRODUCTION

I would like to welcome the reader to our website. The purpose of this website is to be the continuation of the Light of the Christ’s True Church; to be a maiak (lighthouse) for the Orthodox faithful, as the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR) was known for throughout Russia and abroad.

Our goal is to unwaveringly follow in the footsteps of our most venerable predecessors Metropolitans Anthony, Anastassy, St. Philaret, and Vitaly. Only by the grace of God and with His guidance will we be able to provide spiritually beneficial information to the reader; most definitely not because of our personal education, knowledge or wisdom. This is still a ‘work in progress’. We will post articles, resolutions, and other information concerning the Church Abroad. But most importantly – knowing how the hard-working reader is often drawn to the internet after work to “check out the latest on the internet” while he gets some physical rest – I have set up The Bishop’s Corner for the reader’s spiritual benefit. Long, drawn out ‘anthologies’ tend to make the reader skip down to the last page and, seeing that it is 20 pages in length, will ‘put it on the back burner’ to get back to at another time – and often do not.

These will be short subject postings of things of spiritual interest under the headings of “Topic of the Day” or “Questions of the Day”. Perhaps not on a daily basis, but whenever physically possible, I plan to also post, God willing, “snapshots” of life within the ROCOR Church which I am sure you will find interesting as well as enlightening.

† Bishop Stefan of Trenton and North America

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