Written by Vladimir Moss


It is sometimes said that we are now living through a time similar to that of the first centuries in the history of the Church, before St. Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the civilized world. There are certainly many similarities between that time and ours. But in one respect at least there is a very sharp difference: whereas in the first centuries Christianity was seen as the most universal of all the existing religions, and the least tied to a specific people and place and national tradition, now Orthodox Christianity is perceived as among the most culture-specific of all religions, closely tied to the national traditions of certain specific peoples, such as the Greeks and the Russians…

Of course, in its origins Christianity did arise in a specific place and out of a specific national tradition: that of the Jews. And for some time the Church was seen as simply a Jewish sect. However, this perception began to change after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., when the Jews were expelled from their homeland, relations between the Church and the Synagogue became increasingly tenuous and hostile, and the flow of Jewish converts to Christianity began to dry up. Not that the Jewish roots of Christianity were ever forgotten. But the Church was now overwhelmingly a Gentile community composed of people of all nations and with a message aimed at the people of all nations. The Jews now looked on the Christians as completely alien to themselves, and on Jewish Christians as traitors to the national cause. At the same time, the Roman emperors were forced to reclassify the Christians, distinguish them from the Jews, and treat them in a different manner.

“The Roman government,” writes Alexander Dvorkin, “in practice was tolerant to any cult if only it did not incite to rebellion and did not undermine morality. Moreover, the Romans thought that one of the reasons for their military successes was the fact that while other peoples worshipped only their own local gods, the Romans showed marks of honour to all the gods without exception and for that were rewarded for their special piety. All cults not established by the state were allowed, but theoretically did not have the right to propagandize in Rome, although their gods also entered into the Roman pantheon. In the first century after Christ religions already known to the contemporary Roman were not, as a rule, persecuted for propagandizing. However, the law retained its prior force, and theoretically the possibility of applying it remained. The permitted religions had to satisfy two criteria: place and time. Religion was always a local matter – that is, it was linked to a definite people living in a definite locality, - and also an ancient matter, linked to the history of this people. It was more complicated to assimilate the God of the Jews, Who had no representation and did not accept sacrifices in any place except Jerusalem, into their pantheon. The Jews themselves did not allow His representation to be placed anywhere and stubbornly declined to worship the Roman gods. The Jews were monotheists and theoretically understood that their faith in principle excluded all other forms of religion. Nevertheless, in spite of all the complications with the Jews and the strangeness of their religion, it was still tolerated: the religion of the Jews was a national one and, besides, ancient, and it was considered sacrilege to encroach on it. Moreover, the Jews occupied an important political niche that was for the Romans a stronghold of their eastern conquests. In view of all these considerations, the Romans gritted their teeth and recognized the Jewish religion as licit. Privileges were given to the Jewish people also because their rites seemed strange and dirty. The Romans thought that the Jews simply could not have proselytes among other peoples and would rather repel the haughty Roman aristocrat. Therefore the Jews were given the right to confess their belief in one God. Until the rebellion of 66-70 the Roman authorities treated them with studied tolerance. Augustus gave the Jews significant privileges, which, after the crisis under Caligula, who wanted to put his statue in the Jerusalem Temple (cf. Mark 13.14 and II Thessalonians 2.3-4), were again renewed by Claudius.

“The circumstances changed when Christianity appeared. Having examined it, the Romans classified the Christians as apostates from the Jewish faith. It was precisely the traits that distinguished the Christians from the Jews that made them still lower in the eyes of the Romans even than the Judaism they had little sympathy for. Christianity did not have the right belonging to historical antiquity – it was the ‘new religion’ so displeasing to the Roman conservative. It was not the religion of one people, but on the contrary, lived only through proselytes from other religions. If the propagandizing of other cults by their servers was seen rather as a chance violation, for Christians missionary work was their only modus vivendi – a necessity of their very position in history. Christians were always reproached for a lack of historical and national character in their religion. Celsius, for example, saw in Christians a party that had separated from Judaism and inherited from it its inclination for disputes.

“The Christians could demand tolerance either in the name of the truth or in the name of freedom of conscience. But since for the Romans one of the criteria of truth was antiquity, Christianity, a new religion, automatically became a false religion. The right of freedom of conscience that is so important for contemporary man was not even mentioned at that time. Only the state, and not individuals, had the right to establish and legalize religious cults. In rising up against state religion, the Christians became guilty of a state crime – they became in principle enemies of the state. And with such a view of Christianity it was possible to interpret a series of features of their life in a particular way: their nocturnal gatherings, their waiting for a certain king that was to come, the declining of some of them from military service and above all their refusal to offer sacrifices to the emperor.”[1]

So Christians were suspect because of the supposed “lack of historical and national character in their religion”, i.e. because of its universalism. Rome could tolerate and respect any number of historical and national religions, so long as they did not make claims to exclusive truth and universality. Of course, the Jews did claim that their God was the only true God, and there are definite hints of the universality of the Jewish religion in the Law and the Prophets. However, the Jews were still “historical and national” – and, especially after 70 A.D., they became more closed in on themselves and did not try to make proselytes from other religions. So the Jews could be tolerated – just. But it was a different case with Christianity: it was completely and explicitly universalist. And this constituted a threat to the Roman view of things; for the only universal power that Rome recognized was herself, and the only universal religion – the cult of the Roman Emperor.

Roman universality meant that St. Paul, a “Hebrew of the Hebrews”, could also say, without sense of contradiction: “I am a Roman citizen”. Already from the beginning of the second century, we find non-Roman emperors of Rome; they came from as far afield as Spain and Arabia, Dacia and Africa. In 212 Rome offered citizenship to all free subjects of the empire, which meant that these subjects could both identify with the empire as their own country and rise to the highest positions within it. And so Rutilius Namatianus could say of Rome: “You have made out of diverse races one patria”. And the poet Claudian wrote: “we may drink of the Rhine or Orontes”, but “we are all one people”. For the nations had become one in Rome:

She is the only one who has received

The conquered in her arms and cherished all

The human race under a common name,

Treating them as her children, not her slaves.

She called these subjects Roman citizens

And linked far worlds with ties of loyalty.[2]

The clash between pagan Rome and the Church was ultimately a clash between two universalist visions – a political and constitutional one, and a spiritual and ecclesiastical one. They could not co-exist in their existing forms. But St. Constantine the Great showed that, with some adaptation on both sides – radical in the case of Rome (the abolition of emperor-worship), minor in the case of the Church (its administrative reorganization) – they could come together in a “symphonic” union – the Roman Christian Empire. Then for the first time the State could feel at home in the Church, and the Christians (up to a point) - in the State. “The breadth of the East,” wrote the Spanish priest Orosius, “the vastness of the North, the extensiveness of the South, and the very large and secure seats of the islands are of my name and law because I, as a Roman and Christian, approach Christians and Romans…”

The critical change came with the Edict of Milan in 313, which was signed by Constantine and his fellow-emperor Licinius: “Our purpose is to grant both to the Christians and to all others full authority to follow whatever worship each man has desired; whereby whatsoever divinity dwells in heaven may be benevolent and propitious to us, and to all who are placed under our authority”.[3] So Christians were no longer compelled to worship the emperor.

But the significance of the Edict goes beyond this. Fr. Alexis Nikolin writes: “The Edict of Milan decisively rejected many traditions of antiquity. St. Constantine clearly proclaimed that Christianity is not the property of any particular people, but is a universal religion, the religion of the whole of humanity. If formerly it was thought that a given religion belongs to a given people and for that reason it is sacred and untouchable, now the lawgiver affirmed a new principle: that the sacred and untouchable religion was that religion which belonged to all peoples – Christianity. It was obviously not an attempt to bring Christianity under the usual (pagan) juridical forms, but a principled change in those forms.[4]

The modern world – or “the international community”, as it is often called by globalists – has a very similar approach to religion to that of the Roman pagan authorities. Any number of “historical and national” religions are permitted – indeed, encouraged for the sake of cultural variety – so long as none of them makes a claim to exclusive and universal truth. It is politics that is the only permissible universal religion, and the aims of politics – equality, prosperity, stability, “human rights” – the only truly legitimate aims of life… Only two religions defy this consensus: Islam and Christianity. Islam is treated now as Judaism was treated in the first century: with kid gloves. For now, as then, the powers that be would prefer not to use force against a religion having large numbers of adherents and wielding great political and economic power. Besides, any religion that encourages suicide bombers to establish its claims has to be treated with “respect”.

It is a different matter with Christianity. The universalism of Christianity is no longer a threat quite simply because most Christians no longer confess it. Ecumenism has blunted the sharp sword of Christian truth, with the result that each of the Christian “denominations”, and Christianity as a whole, is simply seen as a local tradition no better in principle than any other local tradition. Indeed, Christianity is now seen as so “historical and national” as to be completely passé. In the march of historical progress (a modern concept not shared by the ancient Romans) Christianity has simply been left behind…


Of course, this is highly ironical, because the word “ecumenism” derives from the Greek word oikoumene, “the inhabited world”, from which we get the word oikoumenikos, “ecumenical”, which can also be translated as “universal”. So the ecumenical movement, although universal in its name and aims and emotional pathos, is in fact destroying the only truly universal religion - Christianity. Ecumenism, as the religious component of the globalization movement, is striving to localize Christianity, reduce it to a group of “national and historical” traditions that may have some cultural or aesthetic or psychological value for the nations that inherit them, but no relevance at all for the world as a whole, which can only be saved by what the globalists regard as the only truly universal religion – that of human rights.

But there is a still greater, and more tragic irony: that we the anti-ecumenists, the True Orthodox who maintain that Orthodoxy Christianity is the one and only true faith for all men, often inadvertently give the impression of supporting the ecumenists’ attitude to their faith. For we passionately defend our national religious traditions – whether they be Greek, Russian, Serbian, Romanian or whatever - while failing to unite in a single Church so as to proclaim the truth with one voice to the whole world. It is not that we do not believe that our faith is for all men. We do – or most of us, at any rate. The problem is our failure to present a universalist icon of our universal truth…

“Charity begins at home,” goes the English proverb. This can be understood in both a descriptive and a prescriptive sense. On the one hand, charity, or love, as a matter of psycho-social fact begins in the context of one’s family, friends and neighbours; we learn to love at home. And on the other hand, love should begin with those closest to you, genetically and geographically. For if you cannot love those who brought you into the world and gave you everything that you are, whom can you love? Similarly, at the level of the nation, we see that almost everyone involuntarily loves their own people. He who does not love his own people, we feel, is not fully a man.

This is the order of nature. But nature is fallen. And love of one’s country, like the love of women, is often blind. This fallen, blind love of one’s country we call chauvinism, nationalism or phyletism. But there is a true, spiritual love of one’s country, which we call patriotism.

The Russian religious philosopher I.A. Ilyin described the patriotism, the true love of one’s country, as follows: “To love one’s people and believe in her, to believe that she will overcome all historical trials and will arise from collapse purified and sobered – does not mean to close one’s eyes to her weaknesses and imperfections, perhaps even her vices. To accept one’s people as the incarnation of the fullest and highest perfection on earth would be pure vainglory, sick nationalist conceit. The real patriot sees not only the spiritual paths of his people, but also her temptations, weaknesses and imperfections. Spiritual love generally is not given to groundless idealization, but sees soberly and with extreme acuteness. To love one’s people does not mean to flatter her or hide from her her weak sides, but honourably and courageously criticize them and tirelessly struggle with them.”[5]

The Lord Jesus Christ gives us in this, as in everything else, the perfect example. He loved His earthly country more than any Israelite – but in an unfallen way. Like Paul, He was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews”. But, again like Paul, He recognized that it is precisely earthly kinship and love that often makes one blind to the sins of one’s own people – and the virtues of other nations. He both loved His country and exposed its sins, sometimes expressing both the profoundest love and the sharpest condemnation in the same breath: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23.37).

Again and again the Lord tried to quench the fallen national pride of His compatriots, foreseeing the spiritual and national catastrophe to which it would need. In several parables He prophesied that the Kingdom of heaven would be taken away from the Jews and given to foreigners. The parable of the Good Samaritan could also be called the parable of the Good Foreigner. Of course, the Samaritan signified Christ Himself. But that is just the point: Christ is symbolized in the Samaritan because He might just as well have been a complete foreigner to His people, so little did they appreciate Him. Thus He was rejected and nearly killed by the people of his native Nazareth, to whom He said: “Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted by his own country” (Luke 4.24). And he went on to give two examples of prophets who had to flee Israel, but who were believed in by foreigners: Elijah by the widow of Sarepta in Sidon, and Elisha by Naaman the Syrian (vv. 26-27). It is a striking fact that, if we except the case of St. John the Forerunner (“among them that are born of women there hath not rise a greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11.11)), Christ reserved His greatest praise for foreigners – even foreigners from among the occupying race. Thus of the Roman centurion whose servant He healed He said: “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Matthew 8.10). And then He went on to prophesy that there would be many more like him: “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of heaven. But the children of the Kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vv. 11-12).

Israel fell away from God precisely because she placed the nation and its vain glory above God and His true glory. Their heresy consisted, not in the belief that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4.22), - for the Lord Himself believed that, - but in the belief that salvation was exclusively for the Jews, and that no other nation was worthy to partake of that salvation. However, the religion of the Old Testament, though full of warnings against adopting the false religions of the Gentiles, nevertheless contained the seeds of true universalism. Thus God commanded Abraham to circumcise not only every member of his family, but also “him that is born in the house, or bought with the money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed” (Genesis 17.12). The Canaanite Rahab and the Moabite Ruth were admitted into the faith and nation of the Jews. King David believed that “all the ends of the earth shall remember and shall turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nation shall worship before Him” (Psalm 21.27). And King Solomon prayed that God would hear the prayer of non-Israelites who prayed in his temple, “that all people of the earth may know Thy name, and fear Thee, as doth Thy people Israel” (II Chronicles 6.33). And so by the time of Christ there was a large Greek-speaking diaspora which was spreading the faith of the Jews throughout the Mediterranean world.[6]

However, the Pharisees, who came to dominate Jewry, were interested only in converts to the cause of Jewish nationalism (cf. Matthew 23.15). It was the Pharisees who incited Christ’s death because He preached a different kind of spiritual and universalist Kingdom that was opposed to their nationalist dreams. And after His death, and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the scattering of the surviving Jews throughout the world, the Jews became possessed by an egoistical, chauvinist spirit that was expressed in such a way that, as Rabbi Solomon Goldman put it, "God is absorbed in the nationalism of Israel."[7]

The path of Jewish chauvinism has been followed, alas, by some Gentile Christian nations. Perhaps the first was the Armenians, whose anti-Chalcedonian and anti-Byzantine nationalism made theirs to be the first national church in the negative sense of that phrase – that is, a church that is so identified with the nation as to lose its universalist claims. Again, the Welsh, the remnants of the ancient Romano-BritishChurch, refused to join with the Roman St. Augustine of Canterbury in the conversion of the pagan Anglo-Saxons because of their continuing hatred of the race that had driven them out of Eastern Britain. And so, as prophesied by St. Augustine, they were both defeated in battle and found themselves outside the union of Celtic and Roman Christianity that was achieved at the Synod of Whitby (664). They went into schism, and were regarded as schismatics by the Anglo-Saxon and IrishChurches. As an Irish canon put it, “the Britons [of Wales] are… contrary to all men, separating themselves both from the Roman way of life and the unity of the Church”.[8] The English bishop, St. Aldhelm of Sherborne, described the behaviour of the schismatic Welsh thus: “Glorifying in the private purity of their own way of life, they detest our communion to such a great extent that they disdain equally to celebrate the Divine offices in church with us and to take course of food at table for the sake of charity. Rather,.. they order the vessels and flagons [i.e. those used in common with clergy of the Roman Church] to be purified and purged with grains of sandy gravel, or with the dusky cinders of ash.. Should any of us, I mean Catholics, go to them for the purpose of habitation, they do not deign to admit us to the company of their brotherhood until we have been compelled to spend the space of forty days in penance… As Christ truly said: ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees; because you make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish’.”[9]

As we enter the second millennium of Christian history, we see nationalist passions becoming more widespread in the Orthodox world. Thus as the Armenians, Syrians and Copts separated from the empire, and came under the power of the Arabs, and then the Slavs and Romanians of the Balkan peninsula came under the power of the Turks, the Christian Roman Empire, while not giving up its universalist claims, came more and more to resemble a (rather small) Greek nation-state whose emperors had to struggle for occupancy of the imperial throne with the leaders of other nation-states – Tsar Kalojan of Bulgaria and Tsar Dušan of Serbia. However, the tearing apart of the empire along national lines was prevented, paradoxically, by the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. For the Turkish conquerors imposed their own rule over the whole of what had been the Eastern Roman Empire, including the warring Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbs. Moreover, by treating all the Orthodox Christians of their empire as a single millet, or “nation”, over whom they placed the Ecumenical Patriarchate as “ethnarch”, or civil-cum-ecclesiastical head, they reversed the fissiparous tendencies of the Balkan Orthodox, forcing them into an administrative unity that they had failed to achieve while free.

But it did not last. In 1766 Patriarch Samuel abolished the autonomous status of the Bulgarian Ochrid diocese as well as the Serbian patriarchate of Peč, and sent Greek bishops into the “reconquered” territories who served the liturgy only in Greek for their non-Greek-speaking flocks. Old wounds were reopened, and resentment against the Greeks among the Slavs became so strong that, for example, when the Serbs rebelled against the Turks under Karadjordje, and the Greek klephts offered their support, it was rejected. Again, when the Bulgarians rebelled against the Ecumenical Patriarchate to form their own autocephalous Church with dioceses even in Turkey, they were anathematized by a Council of the patriarchate in 1872 for adhering to the heresy of “phyletism”, i.e. nationalism. Finally, in the decades before the First World War, and especially in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, the Orthodox Christians of the Balkans fought against each other with great savagery for control of Macedonia.

In relation to phyletism the Council of 1872 that anathematized the Bulgarians made the following decision: “…We have concluded that when the principle of racial division is juxtaposed with the teaching of the Gospel and the constant practice of the Church, it is not only foreign to it, but also completely opposed, to it.’ ‘We decree the following in the Holy Spirit: 1. We reject and condemn racial division, that is, racial differences, national quarrels and disagreements in the Church of Christ, as being contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers, on which the holy Church is established and which adorn human society and lead it to Divine piety. 2. In accordance with the holy canons, we proclaim that those who accept such division according to races and who dare to base on it hitherto unheard-of racial assemblies are foreign to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are real schismatics.”[10]

Fine words! The problem was that the authors of these words were as guilty of phyletism as those whom they condemned! So who, in truth, was the schismatic? [11]

However, this is not the important question for us now. The important question is: to what extent is the present disunity in the ranks of the True Orthodox the result of phyletism? And the answer is probably: not much, because divisions within the Churches are as numerous as those between them. Moreover, the blame for the lack of communion between different national Churches for most of the last century should with more justice be laid at the door of external factors – wars, revolutions, linguistic problems, persecutions – than of phyletism. Nor should we forget that there have been noble, if not very successful attempts to unite the national Churches – notably the Russian Church Abroad and the Greek Old Calendarists in 1969-71. Nevertheless, it would be rash to deny the strong influence of phyletism in some, if not all, True Orthodox jurisdictions. The most important question, therefore, is: how can the True Orthodox overcome the temptation of phyletism and translate words into deeds, their confession of Universal Orthodoxy into its practical manifestation?


One fact should be recognized immediately: that it is neither possible nor desirable to turn the clock back to the time when the Church, after the falling away of the Judeo-Christians in the second century, was a community without national and historical traditions in the ordinary sense. It is not possible, because the Local Churches of Greece, Russia, Romania, Serbia, etc. are not going to disappear. And it is not desirable because it would be a catastrophe if they did disappear; for the national and historical traditions of these Local Churches are a priceless treasure which should be preserved at all cost, both for the sake of new generations born on the territories of these Local Churches who would most naturally become Christians by absorbing the local national tradition of Orthodoxy, and for the sake of converts from non-Orthodox lands. Moreover, experience has shown that those converts and their supporters among the “cradle Orthodox” who believe in escaping the phyletism of the old national Churches by creating new ones, such as the Orthodox Church of America, have in general been found prone to fall into heresy, especially ecumenism. And this is not surprising; for the Orthodox Church grows and develops in time, not through revolution, but through evolution, not through casting aside the experience and structures of earlier generations, but through accepting and renewing them.

At the same time, it is precisely on the mission-field, in such places as North America or Western Europe or Central Africa, that the dividedness of True Orthodoxy (as of World Orthodoxy) into a number of jurisdictions produces the most bitter fruits. “Cradle Orthodox”, who in general are not tempted to join any other faith than Orthodoxy, simply put up with the divisions in their homeland (although their children might not): potential converts in the mission-field are more likely to abandon Orthodoxy altogether. Somehow a way must be found of preserving both rootedness in the old national traditions and an unhindered entry for converts into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church…

In this connection it will be worth briefly examining the experience of the Russian Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Not planned by men, but brought into being through the Providence of God as a result of the Russian revolution and the huge emigration it created, ROCOR represented a new phenomenon in Church history: a truly global jurisdiction having its headquarters in the mission-field, and yet rooted firmly in the traditions of one national Church. Wherever the Russian émigrés went, – and they went to almost every corner of the globe, - they built churches that reflected with great faithfulness the traditions of their Russian homeland. And yet, since their homeland had fallen into the hands of the God-hating atheists, who had in turn enslaved the officially hierarchy of the Russian Church, the émigrés were forced to become administratively independent.

In this they probably reflected the situation of the Apostles more closely than any ecclesiastical group since the Apostolic era. For the Apostles, too, were rooted in the traditions of a national Church, that of the Jews. And they, too, were both expelled from the homeland by persecution and found themselves compelled, both by their own lofty (i.e. super-territorial) status as Apostles and by the apostasy of their fellow-countrymen, to separate themselves completely from them and devote themselves exclusively to the Gentile mission-field. Moreover, in such a figure as the ROCOR Archbishop John (Maximovich) of Shanghai, Western Europe and San Francisco we see a truly apostolic – as well as thoroughly Russian - man who preached to people of all nations and faiths, and saw in his apostolic work, not an accidental by-product of his forced exile from Russia, but the very purpose of that exile.For, as he wrote: “God allowed the Russian revolution to take place in order that the Russian Church might become purged and purified, and that the Orthodox Faith might be disseminated across the whole world.”

No less instructive is the fall of ROCOR. It would be correct, but superficial, to call this a fall into the heresy of ecumenism - ROCOR is now part of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is part of the World Council of Churches. A deeper analysis, however, would conclude that ROCOR fell into ecumenism because of its almost simultaneous fall into phyletism.

What is the meaning of this paradox?

Commentators have noted that, after the death of St. John Maximovich in 1966, and especially after the Third All-Diaspora Council in Jordanville in 1974, the ROCOR hierarchs began to be concerned more with the preservation of “Russianness (russkost’)” than with the confession of the True Faith against the heresies of sergianism and ecumenism. Still less was missionary work among non-Russians a priority for most of them, although St. Philaret of New York, who became first-hierarch in 1964, managed to keep the door open both for converts and for “cradle Orthodox” of other races who were fleeing ecumenism until his death in 1985. True, ecumenism was anathematized in 1983; but the true consequences of the anathema were denied, because these included a continuation and deepening of the break with the apostate “Mother Church” of the Moscow Patriarchate in the homeland – and union with the Russians in the homeland, whether they were truly Orthodox or not, was more important for many in ROCOR than union with the True Orthodox of other races… With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989-91, and the return of ROCOR to Russia, the crisis deepened. It was not that so much that a return was wrong in principle – the Apostles would undoubtedly have returned to their homeland if they had been able to – but to convert them, not submit to them. However, weakened by sentimental phyletism, the Russian “apostles” did not have the heart consistently to tell their countrymen the harsh truth they needed to hear, and ended up by joining them in their apostasy in 2007.

This tragedy is a clear historical illustration of the truth first propounded by Konstantin Leontiev in the nineteenth century, that liberalism or cosmopolitanism (ecumenism) and nationalism (phyletism) are two sides of the same coin. Nationalism, he argued, is closely related to liberalism, which is simply the political version of ecumenism. Both nationalism and liberalism are rooted in the French revolution – liberalism in its early, Masonic phase (1789-91), and nationalism in its later, Napoleonic phase, when the idea enshrined in the Declaration of Human Rights that the nation is the source of all authority was translated into the idea of France as the nation par excellence. Both liberalism and nationalism insist on the essential equality of men (in the case of liberalism) or nations (in the case of nationalism); both erase individual differences, undermining individuality in the name of individualism, hierarchy in the name of egalitarianism. But this levelling down is only the flip side of a creeping up, as each nation strives to keep up with the others, fearing that while all nations are theoretically equal some are in fact more equal than others… According to Leontiev, the nations’ striving to be independent of each other was based precisely on their desire to be like every other nation: “Having become politically liberated, they are very glad, whether in everyday life or in ideas, to be like everyone else... So much for the national development, which makes them all similar to contemporary Europeans, which spreads… petty rationalism, egalitarianism, religious indifference, European bourgeois uniformity in tastes and manners: machines, pantaloons, frock-coats, top hats and demagogy!” [12]

As Metropolitan Anastasy (Gribanovsky), second first-hierarch of ROCOR, said: “The nation, this collective organism, is just as inclined to deify itself as the individual man. The madness of pride grows in this case in the same progression, as every passion becomes inflamed in society, being refracted in thousands and millions of souls.”[13] Thus there is a similarity in motivation in all three of the great evils: individualism, nationalism and ecumenism. The origin of all of them is prideful self-assertion: “I am as good as you”, or “my nation is as good as your nation”, or “my religion is as good as your religion”. When self-assertion fails to achieve its aim, it is followed by a (temporary) compromise which preserves everyone’s pride intact: “We are equally good”, “our nations are equally good”, and “our religions are equally good”…

So everyone is happy, and the only thing lost is – the truth. We believe, however, that there is a real difference between individuals and nations – not by nature, but because each individual or nation uses or abuses his or its freewill in relation to the truth. As for the truth itself, that is one and immutable, and the religion that expresses it is intrinsically and forever superior to all others…


So ROCOR, the first experiment in truly global True Orthodoxy, failed. But did it have to fail? And does not its at any rate temporary success in preserving True Orthodoxy as a global missionary religion free from the extremes both of ecumenism and of phyletism indicate the need for another experiment on similar lines?

In order to answer this question we need to look briefly at other historical experiments in ecclesiastical globalism. One, the most famous, is that of the Roman papacy. A second is that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. A third is the American Church before the revolution.

We have to admit that for many centuries, - essentially until the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, when traditional Roman Catholicism, as many Roman Catholics ruefully admitted, surrendered to the New World Order, - the papacy was able to maintain its status as a truly global religion without falling into either of the twin evils of ecumenism and phyletism. But it was able to do that, while retaining its administrative unity, only by falling into a still deeper heresy that is truly satanic in its pride: the heresy of papal infallibility.

There are two aspects, or stages, to this heresy. The first is the idea that Rome is the ultimate court of appeal in ecclesiastical disputes, so that the Pope is in fact the single head of the Church on earth, having jurisdiction over all the Local Churches. We find this idea as early as the fifth century, in the writings of Pope St. Leo the Great, for whom the universality and one-man-rule of the Roman Empire naturally required a parallel universality and one-man-rule in the Orthodox Church – that is, the Church of the Roman Empire – that is, the Church of Rome. Although in error in this, St. Leo was too tactful, too Orthodox in other ways, and too genuinely concerned for the welfare of the Church to put his ideas into practice, or to lead them to their logical conclusion – infallibility.[14] It was a later Pope, Gregory the Great, who pointed out that if there is in essence only one jurisdiction in the Orthodox Church headed by an Ecumenical Pope or Patriarch, then if that Pope or Patriarch falls, the whole of the Church falls with him. So either the Church can fall away, which is contrary to the Saviour’s promise that it will prevail over the gates of hell until the end of time, or the head of the Church must be endowed with infallibility. But this was denied by St. Gregory.

However, later Popes – notably Nicholas I and Gregory VII - embraced this second aspect or stage of the heresy, and thereby fell away from the unity of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Moreover, Gregory VII adopted what we may call the third and final stage of the papist heresy by proclaiming himself head both of the Church and of the State. And this, too, is a logical consequence of the original error. For “symphony” between Church and State, Roman Pope and Roman Emperor, is fine as long as it last, but what is to be done if the empire falls or the emperor ceases to be Orthodox? The only answer, according to the heretical popes, if their global mission was to be assured, was for the Pope to assume authority over the Church as well as the State, proclaiming himself, in effect, the absolute ruler of all things on earth…

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is unlikely to fall into the papist heresy in this extreme form, if only because, for the last 45 years, she has acknowledged the heretical papacy as her elder sister and the first of the Churches of Christ throughout the world. So the most that the Ecumenical Patriarch can hope for is to be a highly honoured deputy to the supreme ruler.[15] However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s globalism is significant in two ways.

First, he is quite clearly attempting to subdue all the Orthodox Churches to his sole rule. This trend became clear in July, 1993, when Patriarch Bartholomew convened a “great and super-perfect (pantelhV) Synod” to judge Patriarch Diodorus of Jerusalem and certain of his collaborators for their supposed interference in the Australian Archdiocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and certain other questions. It was assumed, completely contrary to the canons, that Jerusalem was “interfering” in Australia on the grounds that the Ecumenical Patriarchate had sole jurisdiction in all lands not directly within the boundaries of any other patriarchate, and therefore in Australia also, in spite of the fact that the Jerusalem Patriarchate had had a mission in Australia since 1892, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate – only since 1924.

The clear implication of this action is that only the Ecumenical Patriarchate has jurisdiction in Australia, Western Europe, North and South America, Asia and Antarctica. This is not quite the whole oikoumene – but not far off it! Moreover, if we remember that Bartholomew is also contesting the Russian Church’s jurisdiction in the Ukraine and Estonia, and that he has divided the Russian diocese in London, it will become clear that even the territories of the other established patriarchates are not safe from his rapacity!

Since Jerusalem’s capitulation to Bartholomew at the “super-perfect” Synod, the Eastern patriarchates are effectively in his pocket. As A.D. Delimbasis writes, Bartholomew is “trying to put Jerusalem [under] Antioch, Antioch under Alexandria, Alexandria under Constantinople and Constantinople under the heresiarch Pope…”[16] As for the territories of Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, they were they all under the jurisdiction of Constantinople at one time or another in the past, so why, he could argue (but does not feel powerful enough to say yet), should they not be so now?

But the most original aspect of Bartholomew’s globalist ecclesiology is his concept of the supposedly “symphonic” relationship between the Church that is built on the Rock, which is Christ and the world that is built on sand, which “lieth in evil”. The Emperor Justinian understood “symphony” as existing between the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Empire, and the Popes followed him in this: they did not pretend that there could be any “symphony” between the Church and the world in any other form. But in a lecture given at the London School of Economics in 2005 Patriarch Bartholomew introduced a new, unheard-of understanding of Justinian’s famous concept in the context of a comparison between two models of Church-State relations in contemporary Europe.

According to Marcus Plested, the patriarch argued that “either model… is perfectly acceptable from a religious perspective. What is more important is that governments and faith communities should work together in the common cause of toleration, respect and mutual understanding. We need, in other words, to find a model of positive co-operation and not mere separation or indeed exclusive patronage of a particular religious tradition.

“He called this new model one of ‘symphonia’ – working together in unison. Symphonia is an old notion deriving from the Byzantine model of harmony between Church and empire – both instituted by God to provide, respectively, for the spiritual and temporal needs of the people.

“The Patriarch has given this ancient notion a new interpretation, turning it into a startlingly prophetic call for a re-imagining of the relation between religion and politics free from the tired dichotomies of the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Recent world events, from September 11, 2001, and July 7 this year, to the riots on the streets of Paris, have reminded us that religion is not simply going to disappear as a major social and political issue. It remains a deep-seated force. The great virtue of the Patriarch’s lecture was to provide a vision for the channelling of all this religious energy to the service of the greater social good, for the welfare of those of all faiths and those of none.”[17]

So what is the State with which Bartholomew, as Ecumenical Patriarch of the East in subjection to the Ecumenical Pope of the West, wishes to be in symphony? There is no State in the ordinary sense of the word that could be the partner to such a Global Patriarch. It could only be a GlobalState, or World Government – the government of that “international community” of western nations that likes to speak as if it were the whole world. However, this World Government or “New World Order” is not wedded to any particular faith, unless that faith is the purely secular one of democracy and human rights. Hence the need for the patriarch to emphasise in his lecture (according to the newspaper report) that his symphonic model does not involve the “exclusive patronage of a particular religious tradition”, but is aimed at “the welfare of those of all faiths and those of none”.

But what concord or symphony can there be between Orthodoxy and heresy, between faith and unbelief, between the Church and the world?

In his Novella 131 the Emperor Justinian decreed: “The Church canons have the same force in the State as the State laws: what is permitted or forbidden by the former is permitted or forbidden by the latter. Therefore crimes against the former cannot be tolerated in the State according to State legislation.” This is true symphony: the State recognises that it is pursuing the same aim as the Church, and therefore legislates in all things in accordance with the legislation of the Church. For, as Fr. Alexis Nikolin writes, “in their single service to the work of God both the Church and the State constitute as it were one whole, one organism – ‘unconfused’, but also ‘undivided’. In this lay the fundamental difference between Orthodox ‘symphony’ and Latin ‘papocaesarism’ and Protestant ‘caesaropapism’…”[18] Bartholomew, however, is both a Latin papocaesarist through his submission to the Pope and a Protestant caesaropapist through his submission to the Protestant-dominated New World Order.

Perhaps he is something even worse… In Russia, the main accusation against the founder of the present-day Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Sergius, was that he proclaimed the joys and sorrows of the God-fighting Communist State to be the joys and sorrows of the Church. In other words, he identified the interests of the Orthodox Church with those of the Communists. His successors even called Stalin “the new Constantine”… This heresy has been called “Sergianism”, and has been anathematised by the True Orthodox Church of Russia. Has not Patriarch Bartholomew become a sergianist in that, under the guise of the Orthodox doctrine of the symphony of powers, he has in fact identified the interests of the Church with the interests of the antichristian world, thereby bringing closer the rule of the Antichrist himself, for whom “symphony” will undoubtedly mean “identity” under his sole rule?

Let us now turn to our third historical example, that of the American Church just before the revolution of 1917… The Orthodox Church in North America was composed of a number of dioceses each with a bishop representing a single national Orthodox tradition – Russian, Greek, Syrian, etc. However, these dioceses were not only in full communion with each other (unlike the different dioceses of True Orthodoxy in North America today), but also recognized the head of one of the dioceses – Archbishop Tikhon (Bellavin), the future Russian patriarch and hieromartyr – to be their head (which is not the case in the American dioceses of World Orthodoxy today). In this way the whole group of dioceses across the whole vast expanse of North America presented the image of a single metropolitan area, in which the spirit, if not the exact letter of the holy canons on church administration was preserved, and in which neither the possibility of vigorous missionary activity to the “native Americans”, nor the links of the émigrés to their native lands and traditions, was lost. Unfortunately, this very promising experiment was destroyed as a result of the Russian revolution, and the conflicting political and national demands this produced. It was replaced, on the one hand by a break-down in the unity of the American Church into independent national jurisdictions, and on the other by half-baked and premature attempts at an American Autocephalous Church having no dependence on any “old” national Church in Europe, in the form of the OCA and HOCNA.

Of course, the American example was not truly global. However, it could be the pattern for a truly global solution if replicated elsewhere. Thus we could see a whole series of inter-locking metropolias on the American model, each with a first hierarch belonging to one or another national Church (for example: Russian in North America, Serbian in Western Europe, Greek in Central Africa). Eventually some of these might become new, truly autocephalous patriarchates. And globalism might be turned to the advantage of the Orthodox: in a world united as never before by a single culture and great ease of communication, the structure of the Church might come to resemble again the collegial net of metropolias (or patriarchates) that St. Cyprian of Carthage spoke about in The Unity of the Church.

What are the prospects of some such solution ever being realized in practice?

Everything depends on two factors, one internal and the other external. The internal factor is the real, and not merely formal freedom of the True Orthodox from the equal and opposite heresies of ecumenism and phyletism, their real, and not merely formal faith that there is only “one Lord, one Faith, on Baptism” (Ephesians 4.4), and that all men, of all races, can enter this unity. If they are free from these heresies, both of which in their different ways destroy the possibility of real missionary work, then they will have a true thirst for the conversion of the heterodox, and will work together for the creation of structures that support and facilitate the missionary drive.

The external factor is the political situation. History shows that the best conditions, both for the unity of existing Orthodox Christians of different races, and for the spread of Orthodox Christianity to other races, are provided by the Orthodox multi-national empires, such as Byzantium and Russia. Although the increasing power of the antichristian New World Order does not bode well for the resurrection of the Orthodox Empire in the short term, we must not write off the possibility of such a resurrection in the longer term, especially when several prophecies assert that it will happen. With God all things are possible, and God can make even the remotest possibility reality if He sees that there are men willing to work together with Him to make it reality. And so here, as always, the external depends on the internal… After all, while the terrible Diocletian persecution of the years 305 to 308 was reaching its climax, in a remote province of the Roman Empire the Roman legions were raising St. Constantine onto their shields. And who is to say that the Church today, having survived a persecution far longer and still more cruel than that of Diocletian, may not be on the verge of a new Constantinian era, when the prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the Church, will be fulfilled: “This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to all the world, and then the end will come…” (Matthew 24.14).

Vladimir Moss.

December 26 / January 8, 2009/2010.

The Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos.




[1] Dvorkin, Ocherki po Istorii Vselenskoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi, Nizhni-Novgorod, 2006, pp. 79-80.

[2] Claudian, in Michael Grant, The Fall of the Roman Empire, London: Phoenix, 1996, p. 128.

[3] Lactantius, On the Deaths of the Persecutors, 48. 2-12.

[4] Nikolin, Tserkov’ i Gosudarstvo (Church and State), Moscow, 1997, p. 27.

[5] Ilyin, Put' dukhovnogo obnovlenia (The Path of Spiritual Renovation); quoted by Fr. Victor Potapov in Put' Dukhovnogo Obnovlenia Rossii (The Path of the Spiritual Regeneration of Russia), p. 5 (MS).

[6] According to Paul Johnson, there were about eight million Jews at the time of Christ - 10 per cent of the Roman Empire (A History of the Jews, London: Phoenix, 1987, 1995, p. 171). Dvorkin (op. cit., p. 41) gives a figure of four million in the diaspora, one million in Palestine.

[7] Quoted in Douglas Reed, The Controversy of Zion, Durban, South Africa, 1978, p. 48.

[8] Quoted in A.W. Haddan & W. Stubbs, Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents relating to Great Britain and Ireland, Oxford: Clarendon, 1869, 1964, volume I, p. 122.

[9] Haddan & Stubbs, op. cit., pp. 202-20; translated by Michael Lapidge and Michael Herren, Aldhelm: The Prose Works, Ipswich: Brewer, 1979, p. 158.

The Welsh Church remained in schism until Bishop Elbod of Bangor restored the northern Welsh to unity in 768 (the southerners followed in 777). Iona was brought into line early in the eighth century through the efforts of the holy Abbots Egbert and Adomnan.

[10] Eugene Pavlenko, “The Heresy of Phyletism: History and the Present”, Vertograd-Inform, (English edition), September, 1999. The full report of the special commission can be found in Hildo Boas and Jim Forest, For the Peace from Above: an Orthodox Resource Book, Syndesmos, 1999; in “The Heresy of Racism”, In Communion, Fall, 2000, pp. 16-18.

[11] Konstantin Leontiev, a Grecophile, wrote: “In the ecclesiastical question the Bulgarians and the Greeks were equally cunning and wrong according to conscience. The difference lay in the fact that canonically, formally, in the sense precisely of abstract principles of tradition, the Greeks were more right” (“Khram i Tserkov’” (Temple and Church), in Vostok, Rossia i Slavianstvo (The East, Russia and Slavdom), Moscow, 1996, p. 165). And again: “Both you [Greeks] and the Bulgarians can equally be accused of phyletism, that is, in introducing ethnic interests into Church questions, and in the use of religion as a political weapon; but the difference lies in the fact that Bulgarian phyletism is defensive, while yours is offensive. Their phyletism seeks only to mark out the boundaries of their tribe; yours seeks to cross the boundaries of Hellenism.” (“Panslavism i Greki” (Pan-Slavism and the Greeks), op. cit., p. 46). D.A. Khomiakov wrote: “Is not ‘pride in Orthodoxy’ nothing other than the cultural pride of the ancient Greek? And, of course, the true ‘phyletism’, formulated for the struggle against the Bulgarians, is precisely the characteristic of the Greeks themselves to a much greater extent than the Bulgarians, Serbs, Syrians and others. With them it is only a protest against the basic phyletism of the Greeks. The contemporary Greek considers himself the exclusive bearer of pure Orthodoxy..." (Pravoslavie, Samoderzhavie, Narodnost’ (Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality), Minsk, 1997, p. 19). N.N. Glubokovsky wrote: "Greek nationalism historically merged with Orthodoxy and protected it by its own self-preservation, while it in its turn found a spiritual basis for its own distinctiveness. Orthodoxy and Hellenism were united in a close mutuality, which is why the first began to be qualified by the second. And Christian Hellenism realized and developed this union precisely in a nationalist spirit. The religious aspect was a factor in national strivings and was subjected to it, and it was not only the Phanariots [the inhabitants of Greek Constantinople] who made it serve pan-hellenic dreams. These dreams were entwined into the religious, Orthodox element and gave it its colouring, enduing the Byzantine patriarch with the status and rights of "ethnarch" for all the Christian peoples of the East, and revering him as the living and animated image of Christ (Matthew Blastaris, in his 14th century Syntagma, 8). As a result, the whole superiority of the spiritual-Christian element belonged to Hellenism, and could be apprehended by others only through Hellenism. In this respect the enlightened Grigorios Byzantios (or Byzantijsky, born in Constantinople, metropolitan of Chios from 1860, of Heraklion in 1888) categorically declared that 'the mission of Hellenism is divine and universal'. From this source come the age-old and unceasing claims of Hellenism to exclusive leadership in Orthodoxy, as its possessor and distributor. According to the words of the first reply (in May, 1576) to the Tubingen theologians of the Constantinopolitan patriarch Jeremiah II (+1595), who spoke in the capacity of a 'successor of Christ' (introduction), the Greek 'holy Church of God is the mother of the Churches, and, by the grace of God, she holds the first place in knowledge. She boasts without reproach in the purity of her apostolic and patristic decrees, and, while being new, is old in Orthodoxy, and is placed at the head', which is why 'every Christian church must celebrate the Liturgy exactly as she [the Greco-Constantinopolitan Church] does (chapter 13). Constantinople always displayed tendencies towards Church absolutism in Orthodoxy and was by no means well-disposed towards the development of autonomous national Churches, having difficulty in recognising them even in their hierarchical equality. Byzantine-Constantinopolitan Hellenism has done nothing to strengthen national Christian distinctiveness in the Eastern patriarchates and has defended its own governmental-hierarchical hegemony by all means, fighting against the national independence of Damascus (Antioch) and Jerusalem. At the end of the 16th century Constantinople by no means fully accepted the independence of the Russian Church and was not completely reconciled to Greek autocephaly (from the middle of the 19th century), while in relation to the Bulgarian Church they extended their nationalist intolerance to the extent of an ecclesiastical schism, declaring her (in 1872) in all her parts to be 'in schism'. It is a matter of great wonder that the champions of extreme nationalism in the ecclesiastical sphere should then (in 1872) have recognized national-ecclesiastical strivings to be impermissible in others and even labelled them 'phyletism', a new-fangled heresy." ("Pravoslavie po ego sushchestvu" (Orthodoxy in its essence), in Tserkov' i Vremia (The Church and Time), 1991, pp. 5-6).

[12] Leontiev, “Plody natsional’nykh dvizhenij” (The Fruits of the National Movements, op. cit., p. 560).

[13] Gribanovsky, Besedy s sobstvennym serdtsem (Conversations with my own heart), Jordanville, 1998, p. 33.

[14] However, we should not forget his harsh treatment of St. Hilary, Archbishop of Arles, who disputed his ideas in the West and was thrown into prison for his protest, nor the instructions that he gave to his legates at the Fourth Ecumenical Council: that they should preside over the Council, and present St. Leo’s Tome at the beginning as the absolute truth which could not be disputed or even discussed. Moreover, the legates declared to the Council that the Pope had jurisdiction “over all the Churches”. The Eastern bishops decided to ignore all this...

[15] Or perhaps he can follow the example of Patriarch John the Cappadocian in 518, who, after signing an extraordinarily papist libellus of Pope Hormisdas, added the phrase: “I proclaim that the see of the Apostle Peter [Rome] and the see of this imperial city [Constantinople] are one” (Dvorkin, op. cit., p. 399). In that way he could become co-ruler of the universe!

[16] Delimbasis, Rebuttal of an Anticanonical “Verdict”, Athens, 1993, p. 21.

[17] The Times of London, November 26, 2005, p. 82.

[18] Nikolin, op. cit., p. 17.

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