By: Bishop [now Archbishop] Chrysostomos
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2000, 2001, 2003
American Orthodox Church, Inc.(Claifornia)
and His Eminence
Metropolitan Archbishop Joseph Thaddeus, SSJt., Ph.D.
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Many of today’s modernists have covered over their ignorance of Orthodox ecclesiology by the creation of an "official" Orthodoxy. The idea of an official Orthodoxy is especially popular in America, where Greek Catholics returning to Orthodoxy have brought with them a neo-Papal view of the Church, which they adopted from the Latins. Many of the Protestant fundamentalists who have joined the modernist Antiochian Church also seek a definition of the Church which rests on "officialdom," partly in reaction to their correct misgivings about the self-styled church organization which they created in the name of Orthodoxy, the so-called Evangelical Orthodox Church.
In reality, officialdom has no place in Christianity or Orthodoxy. The Church of Christ did not become valid because it was recognized by the Roman Empire. Nor is an Orthodox Christian authentic because he belongs to a "Patriarch." We are not a Church built on political principles or on papal assumptions. Officialdom in Orthodoxy is based on Apostolic Succession and on an adherence to Holy Tradition. It is a spiritual and charismatic thing, since Apostolic Succession and Holy Tradition describe the passing on of charismatic and spiritual power from Christ to the Apostles to the Church's, Hierarchs. Officialdom is not simply a statement of an historical and legal dimension.
In America, where adherence to Holy Tradition is practically non-existent and where spiritual maturity is indeed lacking, there is a frantic attempt by modernists to be official. Thus the old Metropolia, now the Orthodox Church in America, rushed off to the communist-dominated Patriarchate of Russia several decades ago to remove from itself the accusation of being uncanonical. The Evangelical Orthodox Church, a purely bogus Protestant sect, likewise entered into the Antiochian Church several years ago, also hoping to make itself an official Orthodox Church.
In the case of the old Metropolia, it was before these moves an Orthodox Church, and its clergy were clearly in Apostolic Succession. It had a number of traditional communities, spiritual leaders with solid experience, and a tie to authentic Church tradition. When it joined Moscow, somehow thinking it was then official, the Church was besieged by modernism. The calendar was changed. Innovation became the order of the day. A Church which I can remember as having old Priests who honored their cassocks and who took seriously their roles as imitators of the Patriarchs suddenly became a Church with clergy who can hardly be distinguished in appearance, and often in belief, from Roman Catholic clergy. This Church gained so-called officialdom at the cost of much of its Orthodoxy.
The Evangelical Orthodox Church was accepted by the Antiochian Archdiocese—an excessively modernist jurisdiction—by every innovation, even reaching to the irregular ordination of the EOC clergy. Its Faithful are largely uncatechized. Many of the clergy and Faithful have had no exposure to Orthodox traditions and have been taught to revile them as "ethnic" or "foreign." In the name of officialdom, the body of Orthodoxy has absorbed a foreign element which still accepts and teaches ideas which are wholly inconsistent with the experience of the Church. Officialdom has created a kind of Protestant Orthodoxy. Arid the sad victims of this false creation are the sincere EOC clergy and Faithful.
The official Churches here in America use their officialdom to try to silence us traditionalists, who stand in protest to the innovation, apostasy, and political ecumenism which assault the Orthodox Church. In a country where an "official" religion is non-existent, they even use the media to attack us True Orthodox as "not part of an official Patriarchate" or "separated from the official Church."
Let us examine this phenomenon for what it is. Recently I read a publication by "Orthodox People Together," a group which promotes unity among Orthodox. This is an admirable thing. But the publication reads like a Bible tract from a fundamentalist Church. It is filled with talk about pastors, ministry, social concerns, and the like, but is rather short on references to traditional monasticism, fasting, the ascetic traditions of the Church, self-transformation, and the like. An editorial letter about the female diaconate, in fact, makes a strong and very important plea for the restoration of this vital service for women in the Church. But in so doing, it suggests that a liturgical role for the female deacon is not an important issue, as long as hospital calls and service to the Faithful are made her official duties. Can we imagine an Orthodoxy in which service to the Church relegates the liturgical life to a secondary position and social service to a primary one?
There are modernist monasteries in this countries where monastic traditions are almost wholly unknown—though made-up practices are touted as "ancient" and "Athonite." Indeed, one monastery in the OCA is so marked by innovation that it even mocks many traditional Orthodox practices. While True Orthodox monastics spend their days in services, refrain from ever eating meat, have no personal money or bank accounts, practice strict obedience, and pray for the world, many of the modernists seek to create the kind of social monasticism in Orthodoxy which has destroyed this institution in the Latin Church. One wonders how official this modernist monasticism is.
As Old Calendarist resisters, we are constantly assaulted as "uncanonical" and unofficial by the errant Mother Church of Greece and the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its Exarchates in the diaspora. Shaved Bishops, dressed like Roman Catholic clerics, sitting down to meals of steak and wine on fast days, turn to us and accuse us of being uncanonical. Embracing the heterodox with ecumenical love and violating the Church's canons by praying and even communing with them, they turn to us and spit, calling us people without love.
Indeed, can these people be canonical just because the Greek State recognizes them? Or because the White House door is open to the representatives of the Greek Archdiocese in North and South America? Certainly not. Officialdom comes from spiritual commitment to the Church. And in this sense it is we True Orthodox who are the official believers. Were this not so, moreover, who would cover the sins of these New Calendarists and modernists? Who would provide them refuge when they come to their senses and seek Christianity, and not the world? Who would add to their rightful claims to Apostolic Succession the complement which accrues to that state: spiritual achievement?
The goal of Orthodoxy is not unity in officialdom or recognition by the power of this world. It is the union of man with God. And where this is the one goal of Christians, they are by nature united. They come together in their strict adherence to the path towards salvation which has been set before us by Holy Tradition. They need no worldly gimmicks such as tracts, organizations, and public recognition to know who they are. They are known by their deeds. And they need no redefinitions of their Faith or of spiritual life, since they maintain communion with the myriad of Saints who have walked the tried and true path of Holy Tradition to sanctity.
The official Orthodox whom we see in this country look like the heterodox and are fast coming to believe what the heterodox believe. They are becoming part of a world religion which will one day demand that they reject True Orthodoxy. We traditionalists have tasted of the first step towards that rejection in the unbelievable hatred that these preachers of ecumenical love have for us. Their own actions are a sign to us.
True Orthodoxy is official. It is official because its contains spiritual authenticity. All one need do is walk in our Churches, visit our monasteries, or live with our people to know that, despite our imperfections the spirit of authenticity rests with us. All one need do is visit the Churches and monasteries of the modernists—the few that have any monasteries—and see the compromise, violations and ignorance of tradition, innovation, and priorities of the social Gospel, to know their spiritual state. The lack of authenticity bursts forth clearly, cutting through even the sincerity that underlies some of this ignorance of and deviation from Orthodox practice.
Once one of our monks, a convert, recited from memory Small Compline in Greek. A visiting modernist monk, who had earlier expressed his admiration for us traditionalists but his misgivings about our separation from the official Church, was then asked to say the service in English. He was silent. He did not know the service. Nor could he properly bless a meal. Nor did he know the proper way to fast. Nor did he know any of the many unwritten practices of monastic tradition. I always, remember this young man when I think of officialdom and wonder if he knew how loudly his silence spoke.
From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. VIII, No. 2, p. 7