Written by Vladimir Moss



     It is a cliché of Western scholarship that whereas the Western Church in the Middle Ages was papocaesarist in structure and spirit, the Eastern Church was caesaropapist. That is, while Roman Catholic society was ruled by the Pope in both its political and its ecclesiastical aspects, Eastern Orthodox society was similarly ruled by the Emperor. Now it is not difficult to demonstrate that this assertion is untrue as regards the East, and that both papocaesarism and caesaropapism were western concepts and inventions. Nevertheless, the precise place of the Emperor in Orthodox society is not easy to define; the separation of Church and State in Orthodoxy is not as tidily clear-cut as the Western mind would like to have it, and there is no doubt that the Emperor, in addition to his unquestioned supremacy in the State, has an important and leading role in the Church, too. Moreover, it is precisely in the difference between the position of the Pope in Catholicism and the Emperor in Orthodoxy that the mystery and dogmatic significance of the Orthodox vision of Christian society is revealed...

     Of course, the Protestants - and "Protestants of the Eastern Rite", as Fr. George Florovsky called the modernist Orthodox - deny that there is any mystery or dogmatic significance in the Orthodox Autocracy. Just as there was no infallible Pope in the early Church, they say, so there was no Emperor. And since we cannot accept any additions to the original "deposit of the faith", we must reject the doctrine of the Autocracy as unnecessary at best and antichristian at worst. 

     In this assertion, however, the Protestants are greatly mistaken. For while there was no doctrine of an infallible and universal Papacy in the early Church, there was a doctrine of Church leadership and unity at both the local and the ecumenical levels. And similarly, while there was no Christian Autocracy in the early Church, there was a doctrine concerning the moral and eschatological significance of the Roman Empire. 

     Let us examine this question in a historical context, beginning with the Nativity of the King of kings. Christ was born just as the Roman Empire was coming into being. The significance of this coincidence did not escape the Holy Fathers, whose thought was encapsulated in a verse from the Divine services for the Nativity: "When Augustus reigned alone upon earth, the many kingdoms of men came to an end: and when Thou was made man of the pure Virgin, the many gods of idolatry were destroyed. The cities of the world passed under one single rule; and the nations came to believe in one sovereign Godhead. The peoples were enrolled by the decree of Caesar; and we, the faithful, were enrolled in the Name of the Godhead, when Thou, our God, wast made man. Great is Thy mercy: glory to Thee." 

     This verse establishes a certain providential parallelism between the birth of the Church in the Body of the God-Man, and the birth of the Empire. The Church and the Empire were born and grew up together, as it were; Christ was a citizen of each while being at the same time the Lord of both. It is as if the Empire came into existence precisely for the sake of the Church, creating a political unity that would help and protect the spiritual unity created by the Church.

     Similarly, according to the apostolic teaching, the death of the Empire would presage the death of the Church - or rather, her apparent demise during the time of the Antichrist. For this is the meaning of St. Paul's words: "The mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way" (II Thessalonians 2.7). According to the unanimous witness of the Holy Fathers from St. John Chrysostom to Bishop Theophanes the Recluse and St. John of Kronstadt, "he who restrains" is the Roman Emperor, or monarchical power in general.  The Roman Emperor restrains the appearance of evil in its most radical form, the Antichrist. Therefore his removal will make possible the appearance of the Antichrist and usher in the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ.

     Since the existence of the Empire and the Church on earth are so closely linked, it is small wonder that the apostles exhort Christians to venerate and obey it in all matters that do not conflict with the Law of God. St. Paul commands Christians to give thanks for the Emperor "and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty" (I Timothy 2.1-2). For it is precisely the Emperor's ability to maintain law and order, "a quiet and peaceful life", which makes him so important for the Church. "For anarchy," writes St. Isidore of Pelusium, "is always the worst of all evils... That is why, although the body is a single whole, not everything in it is of equal honour, but some members rule, while others are in subjection. So we are right to say that the authorities - that is, leadership and royal power - are established by God so that society should not fall into disorder." 

     "Be subject for the Lord's sake," says St. Peter, "to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and praise those who do right... Fear God. Honour the emperor" (I Peter 2.13, 17). The Emperor is to be obeyed "not only because of wrath, but for conscience's sake" (Romans 13.5). For he is "the servant of God for good" and "wields not the sword in vain" (Romans 13.4).

     Of course, the autocracy in the apostles' time was not Christian. But if the apostles speak with such reverence of the pagan autocracy, which is qualified as a "human institution", a fortiori they would have spoken with still greater reverence of the Christian Autocracy, created as it was by God's direct call to Constantine. Indeed, according to some of the Holy Fathers, in these passages St. Paul was speaking, from an eschatological perspective, precisely of the Christian Autocracy.

     Thus Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow writes: "The Spirit of God in him foresaw and more or less showed him the future light of Christian kingdoms. His God-inspired vision, piercing through future centuries, encounters Constantine, who brings peace to the Church and sanctifies the kingdom by faith; and Theodosius and Justinian, who defend the Church from the impudence of heresies. Of course, he also goes on to see Vladimir and Alexander Nevsky and many spreaders of the faith, defenders of the Church and guardians of Orthodoxy. After this it is not surprising that St. Paul should write: I beseech you not only to pray, but also to give thanks for the king and all those in authority; because there will be not only such kings and authorities for whom it is necessary to pray with sorrow.., but also those for whom we must thank God with joy for His precious gift." 

     Let us look more closely at the role of the Emperor in the Church. Historically speaking, his most important contribution was in the convening of Church Councils, and in the enforcing of their decisions. All of the Ecumenical Councils were convened by Emperors, as well as many of the Local Councils. 

     Now the Protestant-minded see no great importance in this contribution. After all, they say, the Church does not need an Emperor to convene a Council, and in the first Council of Jerusalem, as in all the Councils of the first three centuries of Christianity, no Emperor was present. For Church Councils are the affair of the Church, not of the State.

     And yet the influence of the Emperor is discernible even in the first Council of Jerusalem. For it is unlikely that the Apostles and the Fathers who succeeded them would have been allowed to convene any Council by the Jews if Roman power had not existed to restrain and subdue the Jewish revolution. And later in Acts we find the Apostle Paul using his Roman citizenship to escape from the attempts of the Jews to kill him. Here already we see monarchical power restraining "the mystery of iniquity". It both restrained the dark forces that sought to scatter the flock of Christ; and created the conditions which enabled the Christians to come together and reinforce their unity. 

     As the Church grew and spread throughout the inhabited world, the problem of preserving this unity became more acute. By the beginning of the fourth century, it was no longer possible to deal with the problems that arose through Local Councils presided over by a single bishop or metropolitan. For heretics condemned by one Local Church could flee to another and spread their poison there, as when Arius was condemned by the Church of Alexandria but fled abroad. And conflicts that arose between Local Churches, as when the Churches of Rome and Asia Minor disagreed over the date of Pascha, required a higher authority to resolve them. Thus it became necessary to find a mechanism or focus of unity which could convene Ecumenical Councils bringing together the leaders of all the local Churches throughout the Empire.

     Through the mysterious workings of Divine Providence, this focus of unity turned out to be the Emperor Constantine the Great, who convened the First Ecumenical Council in order to deal with the problems of Arianism and the Paschalion - problems that were too great for Local Councils to deal with. 

     Now it was at this point that the first seeds of the papist heresy appeared. For while the Popes accepted the political authority of the Emperor, it became increasingly obvious to the Roman mind that the focus of unity in the Church could only come from within the Church, and from the senior and most respected bishop of the Church - the Pope of Rome. Emperors were all very well, but they had no business interfering in the Church's business.  The fact that all Seven of the Ecumenical Councils were convened by the Emperors, that the presiding bishop was not always the Pope or his legate, and that some Popes were even condemned by them (e.g. Pope Honorius by the Sixth Ecumenical Council) - all this was considered coincidental. If the Emperors had played an important role, said the Popes, it was because they were really acting as delegates or spiritual sons of the Papacy - an evident falsehood. (This argument was probably the origin of the myth that St. Constantine had been baptized by St. Sylvester, Pope of Rome.) The Popes later tried to prove, through forgeries such as The Donation of Constantine and The Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals, that they had received their universal jurisdiction from St. Constantine. But this argument defeated its own purpose, for if true, it showed that the Emperor had originally had the universal jurisdiction and was therefore a higher authority than the Pope! 

     A superficially more plausible argument of the Popes was that, while Constantine convened the First Ecumenical Council, its authority did not rest on his convening of it, but on the Popes' confirmation of it. For the Popes could not accept that the authority of the Council rested simply on its conformity with Sacred Tradition; the internal criterion which was considered sufficient at the first Council of Jerusalem - "it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." (Acts 15.25) - did not seem good enough to them. They wanted an external, visible "stamp" - and such a stamp could not come from a mere layman, however powerful or pious, still less an unbaptized layman, as Constantine still was at Nicaea. It had to be the stamp of a bishop at the very least. And since "ordinary" bishops could err, and synods of bishops could disagree among themselves, the only solution was to recognize that God had sealed one particular bishop with the charisma of infallibility which put him above the rest and guaranteed the unity and infallibility of the Church as a whole.

     Although the East was no more inclined than the West to see in the Emperors any kind of guarantee (as opposed to focus) of the Church's unity or infallibility, several historical facts demonstrate that the Eastern Church saw much more in the office of the Emperor than the Romans did. 

     First, the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council not only responded to the invitation of Constantine to come together in a Council, but gave him very considerable authority in the Council, as is evident from their address to him: "Blessed is God, Who has chosen you as king of the earth, having by your hand destroyed the worship of idols and through you bestowed peace upon the hearts of the faithful... On this teaching of the Trinity, your Majesty, is established the greatness of your piety. Preserve it for us whole and unshaken, so that none of the heretics, having penetrated into the Church, might subject our faith to mockery... Your Majesty, command that Arius should depart from his error and rise no longer against the apostolic teaching. Or if he remains obstinate in his impiety, drive him out of the Orthodox Church." As Tuskarev observes, "this is a clear recognition of the divine election of Constantine as the external defender of the Church, who is obliged to work with her in preserving the right faith, and in correspondence with the conciliar sentence is empowered to drive heretics out of the Church."  For, as Eusebius said, Constantine, "emulating the Divine example, removes every stain of godless error from his earthly kingdom." 

     This does not mean, of course, that the Emperors were authorized to impose their own beliefs on the Church; for they, like every member of the Church are subject to the revealed truth, "the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Moreover, as the British historian Sir Arnold Toynbee pointed out, "in the conflicts between the East Roman emperors with the patriarchs of Constantinople, the former won many battles, but did not win a single war."  Thus the Church won the war against the Arian emperors in the fourth century, the Monophysite emperors in the fifth century, the iconoclast emperors in the eighth and ninth centuries, and the Latinizing emperors in the fourteenth century. 

     Nevertheless, - this is a second important point, - there were also moments when the leadership of the Church faltered, and it was the Emperors who played the decisive role in protecting the true faith. For example, when the pious Emperors Marcian and Pulcheria came to the throne in the year 450, they were in fact more Orthodox than the leading bishops of the time, who were infected with Monophysitism; and it was on the initiative of these Emperors that the Fourth Ecumenical Council was convened and Orthodoxy restored. Thus the relationship between Church and Emperor was closer than the simple formula: the Church for spiritual matters and the Emperor for earthly matters, might suggest... 

     Thirdly, in the liturgical order the Emperors are given a place fully equal to that of the bishops. St. Constantine was called "equal to the apostles"; he was "anointed a priest and king with the oil of mercy", being "bishop of those outside" the Church; and his successors received the Holy Mysteries at the holy table, together with the hierarchs, on the day of their coronation.  In pannikhidas sovereigns are commemorated before hierarchs, and in liturgical processions they come last, signifying their pre-eminence. 

     Fourthly, the Emperor Justinian's classic definition of the "symphony" between the Church and the State places the responsibility for maintaining the symphony on both the Church and the State. As Andrushkevich points out, the word "symphony" in the Greek text denotes much more than simple agreement or concord. Church and State can agree in an evil way, for evil ends; true symphony is possible only where both the Church "is without reproach and adorned with faithfulness to God", in the words of the holy Emperor, and the State is ruled "rightly and decently" - that is, in accordance with the commandments of God. 

     It follows that a rigid separation of functions between the Church and the Emperor fits neither the theory nor the practice of Church-State relations in Orthodoxy. Just as the Church can "interfere" into the domain of the Emperor by criticizing his actions from the point of view of the Gospel, and can refuse to recognize his authority if his faith is not Orthodox, so the Emperor can "interfere" in the spiritual domain if the waves of heresy or schism threaten to overwhelm the ship of the Church - and therefore of the State, too. And this is because both Church and State are seen as being subject to Christ and serving Him alone, and because both the Bishops and the Emperor are seen as members of the same mystical organism of the Church in which all are responsible, albeit in different ways, for upholding the right confession of faith.

     In fact, from the point of view of the confession of the faith, the Emperor has a more prominent and critical position even than the leading bishops. For everyone, both inside and outside the Empire, looks to him as representing the official faith of the Empire. That is why the Right-Believing Kings are the first target of the enemies of the truth, why the Emperor's office is regarded as a most heavy cross, and why the killing or removal of the Lord's Anointed is a greater crime even than the killing of a bishop, leading inexorably to the collapse of the Christian State, as we see in England after the murder of St. Edward the Martyr and the rebellion against his brother King Ethelred, and in Russia after the murder of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas. For as St. John Maximovich said: "It cannot be otherwise. He was overthrown who united everything, standing in defence of the Truth." 

     Thus if the priesthood is indispensable above all because it dispenses the Life-giving sacraments, the monarchy is indispensable because through it the Truth is proclaimed to the world. As the King of kings said to Pilate: "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth" (John 18.37). The truth is witnessed to on a local scale by every individual believer, and by every Local Church headed by a bishop. But at the ecumenical level, in its full glory as the salvation of the whole world, the truth requires a king in the image of Christ the King. That is why the Ecumenical Councils were not accidentally associated with the Emperors who convened them, and why the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, celebrating the establishment of the first truly ecumenical Christian autocracy, is such a great feast in the Church.

     Of course, we know that the Church will prevail even against the gates of hell, as the Saviour promised (Matthew 16.18), while no such promise is given to any earthly kingdom. However, as we have seen, the fall of the last Christian empire will lead to the final decline of the Church on earth, which will be halted only by the Second Coming of Christ, the King of kings. Moreover, the Church is not just the hierarchy; and it is quite possible that during the times of the Antichrist the whole of the hierarchy will fall away while only some individual laymen remain to represent the Church. Thus according to some interpretations of Daniel 12.11, "the removal of the continual burnt offering" signifies the removal of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, which implies either the falling away of the priesthood or its inability to carry out its sacramental functions.  For perhaps, as New Hieromartyr Joseph, Metropolitan of Petrograd, wrote, "the last 'rebels' against the betrayers of the Church and the accomplices of her ruin will be not only bishops and not archpriests, but the simplest mortals, just as at the Cross of Christ His last gasp of suffering was heard by a few simple souls who were close to Him..." 

     The papist position implicitly rejects this possibility. It cannot conceive of the Church existing even for a short period without a hierarchy – that is, the Pope; which is why, when one Pope dies and his successor has not yet been elected, the Roman Church enters a kind of metaphysical limbo, whose reflection can be seen in the strange psychological state of some papists during the interregnum. Strictly speaking, in fact, according to papist doctrine the Church ceases to exist in this period; for if the Church is founded on Peter, and Peter is visibly present neither in his own person nor in that of his successor, how can it be said to exist? It follows, according to the papist teaching, that everything should be subject to the hierarchy, including the affairs of State.  For how can it ever be right for the laity to resist the hierarchy, or the Emperor resist the Pope, if truth and salvation are in the Pope alone? Indeed, if the Pope is the first bishop and the Emperor only the first layman, and if the Pope is infallible while the Emperor is clearly fallible, why should not the Pope also be Emperor? 

     Thus there is a logical progression from the first seeds of the papist heresy, as we find them in the writings of some of the Popes of the fifth century, to the full-blown blasphemy of Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand) proclaimed at the First Lateran council of 1076: "The Pope can be judged by no one; the Roman Church has never erred and never will err till the end of time; the Roman Church was founded by Christ alone; the Pope alone can depose and restore bishops; he alone can make new laws, set up new bishoprics, and divide old ones; he alone can translate bishops; he alone can call general councils and authorize canon law; he alone can revise his own judgements; he alone can use the imperial insignia; he can depose emperors; he can absolve subjects from their allegiance; all princes should kiss his feet; his legates, even those in inferior orders, have precedence over all bishops; an appeal to the papal court inhibits judgement by all inferior courts; a duly ordained pope is undoubtedly made a saint by the merits of St. Peter." 

     Such papocaesarist madness was bound to elicit a reaction; which is why Pope Gregory was expelled from Rome by the German Emperor, and why the history of the Middle Ages in the West is the history of the continual struggle between Popes and Emperors for ultimate rule over the Christian people. But while some of the kings of the West rejected the papocaesarist heresy, it had already taken deep root in the Church as a whole. Thus when Gregory lay dying in exile in Salerno and said: "'I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity'; therefore I die in exile," a monk who waited on him replied, continuing the quotation from the Psalms which can rightly be referred only to Christ: "In exile thou canst not be, for 'God hath given thee the heathen for thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession' (Psalm 2.8)." 

     The heretical Popes were the first political revolutionaries in Christian history; for by inciting the peoples of the West to rise up against their legitimate sovereigns, they transgressed the apostolic command to be subject to the powers that be. 

     This was clearly evident for the first time in 1066, when the Pope, egged on by Archdeacon Hildebrand, anathematized King Harold of England and all those who supported him and blessed the invasion of England by William the Conqueror. The invasion was deemed necessary because the English Church and people had refused to break their allegiance to King Harold and his predecessor, St. Edward the Confessor, when they fell out with Rome. For they were deeply imbued with the principles of the Orthodox autocracy that had served them so well since King Alfred the Great had restored Orthodoxy after the Viking invasions in the ninth century, and which had produced at least one saint in the person of King Edward the Martyr. Therefore when King Harold was killed at the battle of Hastings he died in defence, not only of his personal power, but also of the Orthodox doctrine of Church-State relations. 

     But one form of totalitarianism begets another and opposite kind. And the papocaesarist heresy of Hildebrand begat the first purely caesaropapist State in Christian history in the form of William the Conqueror's England. For while William's invasion of England had been blessed by Hildebrand, to whom he owed nominal allegiance, he proceeded to reject the authority of the Pope in his conquered land. For, as Eadmer of Canterbury wrote: "All things, spiritual and temporal alike, waited upon the nod of the King... He would not, for instance, allow anyone in all his dominion, except on his instructions, to recognize the established Pontiff of the City of Rome or under any circumstances to accept any letter from him, if it had not first been submitted to the King himself. Also he would not let the primate of his kingdom, by which I mean the Archbishop of Canterbury, if he were presiding over a general council of bishops, lay down any ordinance of prohibition unless these were agreeable to the King's wishes and had been first settled by him. Then again he would not allow any one of his bishops, except on his express instructions, to proceed against or excommunicate one of his barons or officers for incest or adultery or any other cardinal offence, even when notoriously guilty, or to lay upon him any punishment of ecclesiastical discipline." 

     The parallel with Russia in 1917 is striking. For in England as in Russia, the overthrow of the Orthodox autocracy by anti-monarchical forces led to the imposition of a caesaropapist dictatorship of unparalleled cruelty, which led in turn to the downfall of the official Church, the removal of the true bishops, the killing of the faithful believers, and the profaning of the holy relics and churches. And, as if to emphasize this correspondence, the surviving child of the last English Orthodox king, Gytha, fled to Kiev and married Great-Prince Vladimir Monomakh, making the Russian Tsar-Martyr Nicholas a direct descendant of the English Martyr Kings. It is as if the last scion of Orthodox autocracy in the "First Rome" was saved through its union with the new Orthodox autocracy of the "Third Rome", just as, four centuries later, the last scion of the Orthodox autocracy of the "Second or New Rome", Sophia Palaeologus, was united to another Russian Great-Prince, Ivan III... 


     Let us now turn to the specific contribution made by Russia to the Orthodox understanding of Church-State relations. Holy Russia, "the Third Rome", came into being in the late tenth century at almost exactly the same time that the Christian West, "the First Rome", was entering its final descent into apostasy. This fact has led some to speculate that Russia has taken the place of the West in the Divine Plan, and that it is precisely Russia that will achieve the final victory over the Western apostasy. 

     Of course, this is not to deny the great merit of the Great Church of Constantinople in exposing and anathematizing the Western heresies of the Filioque (in the ninth century), of unleavened bread and the omission of the epiclesis (in 1054), and of created grace (in the fourteenth century). But, according to a Greek prophecy of the eighth or ninth century, "the sceptre of the Orthodox kingdom will fall from the weakening hands of the Byzantine emperors, since they will not have proved able to achieve the symphony of Church and State. Therefore the Lord in His Providence will send a third God-chosen people to take the place of the chosen, but spiritually decrepit people of the Greeks."  

    For the Greeks, while clearly discerning the apostasy of the West, nevertheless followed their last two emperors, John VIII and Constantine XI, into union with the West at the council of Florence in 1439 for the sake of preserving their empire from the Turks. Unlike their great ancestors, who had often defied heretical emperors for the sake of faithfulness to the truth, they tried to preserve their earthly kingdom at the price of the Kingdom of Heaven, forgetting that the whole glory of the Christian Empire lay in its readiness to live and die for its Heavenly King. "For here we have no lasting city, but seek the City which is to come" (Hebrews 13.14).

     Fr. Alexander Schmemann traced the beginning of this fall to the eleventh century: "After 1081, when Alexius Comnenus ascended the throne, the patriarchs seem to withdraw into the background. We find very meager information about them in the Byzantine chronicles through which we establish their names, their chief 'acts', and the years in which they were appointed or died. A curve could be traced, showing a gradually fading image of the patriarch side by side with the ever-increasing splendor of the basileus, as the Eastern emperors were called. And this is not accidental. It gives proof that the scales of the unattainable harmony were inclined in the direction of imperial power.

     "It is important to emphasize that this painful weakness cannot be explained solely in terms of the government's coercing the Church - in terms of the superiority of physical force, so to speak... This was an inner, organic weakness of the representatives of the Church. Their dual situation made them not just the victims but also the agents of their own destiny. The thirst for a sacred theocracy, the desire to illumine the sinful stuff of history with the light of Christ; everything that could justify the union of Church and empire - this ideal required for its attainment a very subtle but very clear distinction between the Church and the world. For the Church is thoroughly fulfilling its mission to transform the world only when it completely feels itself to be a kingdom not of this world. 

     "The tragedy of the Byzantine Church consisted precisely in the fact that it became merely the Byzantine Church, that it merged itself with the empire not so much administratively as, above all, psychologically, in its own self-awareness. The empire became for it the absolute and supreme value, unquestioned, inviolable, and self-evident."  

     Allowing for a certain exaggeration, we may accept Schmemann's analysis, which accords with the witness of the Greek prophecy quoted above. The Byzantine empire failed because, although it remained Orthodox in itself, and the emperor and patriarch remained in harmony to the end, this harmony was not true "symphony", being based on a diminished, less-than-truly-ecumenical and non-missionary vision which tended to degenerate into a narrow nationalism that has become increasingly evident in the post-Byzantine era, when Hellenism and revolutionary ideas of freedom at times have seemed to supplant Orthodoxy in the affections of the people. Therefore, being unable to present a truly catholic and ecumenical vision of Christian society to the world, the Byzantines fell into a false union with the West with its heretical, but more explicitly universal vision.

     Did Russia succeed where Byzantium failed? Schmemann sees the Russians as having corrupted the ideal of Church-State symphony no less than the Byzantines, most obviously in the reigns of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great. However, here we must disagree with the learned theologian, who betrays the bias of his Parisian training in his blindness to the "curves" of Russian history. Although Russia succumbed at times to caesaropapism and narrow nationalism, she always recovered from these temptations as a result of several factors which distinguished Russian history from that of Byzantium.

     First, Russia had a long, nearly five-hundred year training in humility in the shadow of the Byzantine empire, during which, in spite of her vastly greater size and political independence from Byzantium, her metropolitans were always (until the council of Florence) appointed by the Constantinopolitan Patriarch, and her great-princes always (until the very fall of Byzantium) looked to the Byzantine Emperors as to their elder brothers. This meant that, when Russia came to take the place of Byzantium as the bearer of the cross of the Christian Empire, she was not tempted to think of herself as the first or only or best Christian people. And when that temptation appeared in the form of the Old Ritualist schism, it was rejected by the ecumenical consciousness of the Russian Church and State.

     Secondly, while the Greeks had a long and sophisticated history as pagans before accepting Christianity, the Russians accepted the faith in the first flush of youth, as it were. This meant, among other things, that the pagan traces of idolatrous emperor-worship, which some scholars have claimed to find even in late Byzantium, were no part of the inheritance of the newly Christianized people of Rus'. Some have claimed that the Mongol yoke later injected certain pagan and idolatrous attitudes into Russian life; but there is little evidence to support this notion.

     Thirdly, while the Byzantine Empire contracted from the large, multi-national dominion of Constantine the Great to the small, exclusively Greek dominion of Constantine XI, the Russian Empire grew in the opposite direction, expanding from its Muscovite heartland to the borders of Sweden and Germany in the West and China and America in the East. This meant that the Russian Empire was always and increasingly multi-national, with a large number of non-Russian saints and a strong commitment to missionary activity right until 1917 and (in the Russian Church Abroad) to the present day. This truly ecumenical, non-nationalistic character of the Russian Empire was emphasized by its last three wars - the Crimean war, the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78 and the First World War, which were fought in a self-sacrificial spirit for the sake of the non-Russian Orthodox of the Balkans and Middle East.

     Fourthly, the history of the Russian Empire has been punctuated by wars against the Western heretics. Thus the history of Russia is defined, to a much greater degree than Byzantium, by her relationship with the West. And whereas Byzantium chose to compromise with the West so as to receive help against the Muslims (which never came), Russia in the person of Alexander Nevsky made the opposite choice of priorities, and the Russian Empire died during a war against both the West (Germany and Austria-Hungary) and the Muslims (the Ottoman empire). 

     And yet Russia finally fell to a western heresy - the heresy of social democracy, or, in its extreme form, communism. And now her Church is captive to the more specifically ecclesiastical form of that heresy - ecumenism. So the promise that she is in some sense destined to be the conqueror of Old Rome remains so far unfulfilled. 

     How, then, can Russia fulfil her destiny in relation to the West, becoming in truth "light from the East"? Only by demonstrating in her own life the vitality of that ideal form of Christian social life, the symphony of Emperor and Church, which Byzantium failed to achieve and of which the western forms are the heretical distortions. For we may say that the root heresy of the West, more fundamental even than the heresies that the Byzantines fought against, is precisely a false understanding of Church-State relations, which gave birth, first to Catholic papocaesarism, then to Protestant caesaropapism and finally, in our time, to ecumenist democracy.

     In trying to define this root heresy of the West, a clue is provided by a phrase in the famous speech of the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II to Tsar Theodore Ivanovich, when he enunciated and gave his blessing to the idea that Russia is the Third Rome: "Since the First Rome fell through the Apollinarian heresy, and the Second Rome, which is Constantinople, is held by infidel Turks, so thy great Russian kingdom, most pious Tsar... is the Third Rome... and thou alone under heaven art Christian Emperor for all Christians in the world." 

     Now the Apollinarianism rarely, if ever, figures in lists of the western heresies. And yet the patriarch here indicates that it is the heresy as a result of which the First Rome fell. We must therefore look for some matching in form, if not in substance, between the Apollinarian and papist heresies. Smirnov's definition of the heresy gives us a clue: "accepting the tripartite composition of human nature - spirit, irrational soul, and body - [Apollinarius] affirmed that in Christ only the body and the soul were human, but His mind was Divine."  In other words, Christ did not have a human mind like ours; it was replaced, according to the Apollinarians, by the Divine Logos. A parallel with Papism immediately suggests itself: just as the Divine Logos replaces the human mind in the Apollinarian Christology, so a quasi-Divine, infallible Pope replaces the fully human, and therefore at all times fallible episcopate in the heretical papist ecclesiology.

     The root heresy of the West therefore consists in the unlawful exaltation of the mind of the Pope over the other minds of the Church, both clerical and lay, and its quasi-divinization to a level equal to that of Christ Himself. 

     From this root heresy proceed all the heresies of the West. Thus the Filioque with its implicit demotion of the Holy Spirit to a level below that of the Father and the Son becomes necessary insofar as the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth Who constantly leads the Church into all truth has now become unnecessary - the Divine Mind of the Pope is quite capable of fulfilling His function. Similarly, the epiclesis, the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the Holy Gifts is also unnecessary - if Christ, the Great High Priest, sanctified the Holy Gifts by His word alone, then His Divine Vicar on earth is surely able to do the same without invoking any other Divinity, especially a merely subordinate one such as the Holy Spirit. 

     Again, if the Pope is agreed to dispense grace directly, rather than beseeching the Holy Spirit to send it down, then grace must be agreed to be created - for even the Popes do not pretend to be uncreated, and it is paradoxical for a created being to dispense uncreated grace. Rather, the Popes are created beings who partake in the essence of the Godhead through their infallible minds. Therefore, as a recent official publication of the Vatican put it, the Pope "is the ultimate guarantor of the Teaching and Will of the Divine Founder"! 

     Not only the Papist, but also the Protestant heresies proceed from this bitter root. For Protestantism's main difference from Papism is that, in the spirit of rationalist democracy, it wants to extend the privileges of the Pope's Divine mind - his infallible access to truth and certain possession of salvation - to the minds of all Christians. As New Hieromartyr Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky) put it: "Protestantism only objected: Why is truth given to the Pope alone?... Every individual was thus promoted to the rank of infallible Pope. Protestantism placed a papal tiara on every German professor..."  

     However, if truth is given to every man in view of his naturally infallible mind, there is no need, either of the Pope, or of the Church, or even of Christ Himself. Indeed, why should any organized religion or revelation be necessary if man has only to dig into his personal divinity to find all the riches of the Heavenly Kingdom? Why not recognize all religions and all revelations, since they all manifest that "Light which enlightens every man that comes into the world" (John 1.9)?

     Thus the papist heresy of Church-State relations, whose seeds are evident already in the fifth century, leads inexorably, not only to the full-blown heresies of eleventh-century Papism and sixteenth-century Protestantism, but even to the modern pan-heresies of Ecumenism and the New Age.

     More than that: it could prove to be the theoretical underpinning of the "divinity" of the Antichrist. For just as the Pope is considered to have an infallible mind, so the Jew is considered to have a Divine soul - and none more, of course, than the coming false king of the Jews, the Antichrist. Thus we read in a contemporary Jewish journal: "When the Creator on Mount Sinai CHOSE us for a special mission, there arose a completely new form of connection between Him and the Jewish people. The distinction between the Hebrew people and the others was formed in two stages. The first stage was the epoch of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who, thanks to their selfless devotion to the Master of the universe, were raised above the limitations of their nature and laid the foundation for a new type of reality - the Jewish people.

     "The second stage was accomplished by the revelation on Sinai. Thanks to their special inspiration and complete devotion to the will of the Creator, the forefathers of the Jewish people merited, not only for themselves, but also for their descendants, a special spiritual substance - a Divine soul. Thus the Jewish people was separated into a special category distinct from the other peoples. This distinction is not quantitative, but qualitative…

     "Such an approach allows us to understand the specific nature of the Jewish people. The Jew is not simply a man who has one extra quality or characteristic. The Jew is a creature into which the Most High has inserted a Divine soul - the spirit of holiness, a particle of God Himself.

     "The Divine soul which belongs to the Jew is a supremely unique characteristic. All creatures, including mankind, are parts of the creation of the world with its regularities and limitations. But the Jew stands outside the creation of the world thanks to his Divine soul. This particularity of the Jewish people was formed already in the time of the forefathers, and from them was passed down by inheritance to every Jew, who bears within himself this phenomenon, the Jewish soul - a particle of God Himself.

     "From this it follows that true freedom of choice belongs only to those possess a particle of God Himself - a Divine soul. As is said in the book of the Prophet Ezekiel, chapter 34, verse 31: 'You are My people, My flock. Your name is man.' From these words it follows that the definition of 'man' in the highest sense of the word, and consequently freedom of will in the full sense refer only to the possessors of a Divine soul." 

     We may speculate that the "third stage" in the supposed superiority of the Jews over all other nations will come when the Antichrist comes to power, when it will be claimed, through a new revelation higher even than that of the law and the prophets, that he has a Divine soul to an even greater degree than the other Jews, being in fact, not just a particle of God Himself, but the whole Divinity; for he will "take his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God" (II Thessalonians 2.4).

     Thus the warning of the Orthodox Pope St. Gregory the Great that papism is "the forerunner of the Antichrist" is shown to be true. Jewish Antichristianity may be defined as a nationalist form of Papism or Apollinarianism. In essence it is the same as the Hindu teaching that man is by nature God, which is the same primordial lie that Satan whispered into the ears of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Against this, the first and perhaps also the last of the God-fighting heresies, Orthodoxy teaches that man is not god by nature, but can become god by grace, through union in the fear of God, in faith and in love with the only God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through participation in the Holy Spirit.

     But Orthodoxy demonstrates this truth not only in words, but also in its God-inspired social structure. For the division of powers between the Emperor and the Patriarch, which was abolished by the Papacy and will be abolished again by the Antichrist, demonstrates that no man, however holy, can have the fulness of grace, which belongs to God alone. For just as the Emperor is forbidden to offer the Bloodless Sacrifice at the altar (although, as we have seen, he is a priest in a certain sense), so the Patriarch is forbidden to assume political office. And if some patriarchs in Orthodox history have been forced to assume a more than strictly priestly role, this has been exceptional, an exercise of oekonomia. In essence the throne of the Emperor at such a time remains empty; no Patriarch, however distinguished, can occupy it.

     Thus the role of the Emperor in the Church may be compared to that of the Archangel Michael in the angelic hierarchy. Just as the great archangel was called to take on the leadership of the good angels, although he was not from the ranks of Cherubim and Seraphim, so the right-believing Emperor is called to take on the leadership of the Church, although he is not from the ranks of the holy bishops. And just as the archangel was called to resist the Luciferian pride of the fallen first angel, so the Emperor is called to resist "the depths of Satan" (Revelation 2.24) in the fallen first-hierarchs of the West and formerly chosen people of the East. For the name "Michael" means "Who is like unto God?", which refrain is precisely that of the Orthodox Emperors in their struggle against Papism and Judaism. Fittingly, then, is the Archangel Michael seen as the special protector of Orthodox Emperors, being the "wondrous champion of them that wage war against the spirits of evil in high places". 


     We can now see why the differences with regard to monarchism in general, and Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, in particular, between the present-day Moscow Patriarchate, on the one hand, and the True Russian Church, on the other, are by no means unimportant or secondary, but in fact underly all their other differences.

     The main achievements of the Tsar-Martyr consisted in his resisting the resurgent power of the Jews and papists, and in his overcoming, in his own person, of the caesaropapist legacy of the eighteenth century. Of course, his nineteenth-century predecessors paved the way for the restoration of true symphony in Church-State relations. However, it was Tsar Nicholas II who showed the most exceptional devotion to the Church, building churches, glorifying saints and, most significantly, approving the restoration of the patriarchate. The fact that the patriarchate was not restored during his reign, but some months later, was not his fault, but the fault of those who, having inwardly broken their ties with the Church, were trying to undermine the foundations of the State as well. Some claimed that it was the overbearing power of the monarchy which inhibited the restoration of the patriarchate, which therefore became possible only after the monarchy's fall. But this was not in fact the case: rather, it was the weakness of the Church, especially in its more educated strata, that undermined the strength of the monarchy, which in turn necessitated the restoration of the patriarchate if Christian society was to have a clear focus of unity and leadership. For, as one peasant delegate to the Local Council of 1917-18 put it: "We have a Tsar no more; no father whom we love. It is impossible to love a synod; and therefore we, the peasants, want a Patriarch." Indeed, the restoration of the patriarchate may be seen as the first-fruits of the shedding of the Tsar-Martyr's blood.

     For a time the Patriarch carried the colossal burden of representing and defending the Christian people in the absence of a tsar. This inevitably involved certain quasi-political acts, such as the anathematization of Soviet power and the condemnation of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. However, the accusation of "politicking" that was hurled against the Patriarch was misplaced, not only because these acts were necessary in the interests of the Church, and were therefore within the Patriarch's competence, but also because, in the absence of a tsar, someone had to bear the cross of witnessing to the truth and condemning the revolution publicly and on the world stage.

     Nevertheless, the strain of this unnatural situation began to tell, and the witness of the Church against the revolution began to grow muted. Again, this was not so much the fault of the Patriarch as of the whole of Christian society; for just as the Tsar could not govern if nobody obeyed him, the Patriarch could not witness effectively if civil society pursued other ideals.  Thus he felt unable to give his unequivocal blessing to the leaders of the White armies, probably because "the spirit was not right," as Elder Aristoclei of Moscow said - many of them were aiming, not at the restoration of the Romanov dynasty, but at the reconvening of the Constituent Assembly or the restoration of the landowners' lands. 

     Thus by the end of the Civil War the spirit of Orthodox Monarchism, without which the restoration of Holy Russia was inconceivable, had been driven largely underground and overseas, manifesting itself only rarely in public, as in the First All-Emigration Council of the Russian Church in Exile in 1921. And a few years later the Church herself was forced underground. For, deprived of all support in the public domain, the Patriarch had been forced to make damaging concessions to the atheists - first in the affair of the requisitioning of church valuables , then in setting himself "finally and decisively" apart "from both the foreign and the internal monarchist White-guard counter-revolutionaries", in the annulling of the anathema against the Bolsheviks, in the introduction of the new calendar, and in the admittance of the renovationist Krasnitsky to a place in the Synod. 

     But though the Patriarch bowed to the overwhelming pressure of the Bolsheviks, he did not break. He himself foresaw, as he revealed in a conversation with the future catacomb hieromartyr Maximus of Serpukhov, that the Church could not go on making such compromises without sacrificing her inner freedom, and therefore her inner union with Christ in the Spirit. And so he blessed the formation of the Catacomb Church, which would preserve the spirit of Orthodox Monarchism in the only conditions in which it could survive in the conditions of the militantly atheist State - as an underground opposition to the State.

     The "achievement" of Metropolitan Sergius, the founder of the Sovietized Moscow Patriarchate, was to give a dogmatic foundation to the heresy concerning Church-State relations that goes under his name - Sergianism. Sergianism is in fact a subtle and paradoxical form of Papism. Its paradoxicality consists in the fact that it is at the same time both papocaesarism and caesaropapism; for while, as we shall see, it creates a completely papal structure for the Church, it at the same time subordinates the whole Church to the complete control of the State.

     Like Papism, Sergianism begins by denying the rights of the Emperor in the Church and monarchism in general. In fact it goes further in this direction than any of the Popes: in the spirit of the revolution it denounces the meekest and least bloodthirsty of the tsars as a blood-sucking tyrant and political criminal. Nor can this be excused as insincere words uttered to please the Bolsheviks: even after the fall of Bolshevism, the leaders of present-day Sergianism have not returned monarchism to its rightful place in the fabric of Church doctrine, nor officially recognized the martyrdom of the Tsar. 

     Unlike Papism, however, Sergianism did not put the first-hierarch of the Church in the position of the overturned Emperor. That was obviously neither possible nor desirable in the context of the revolution. Rather, it accorded the roles both of Emperor and of Patriarch to the Leader of the Soviet State. And if Sergius himself was later given the title of patriarch, everyone understood who the real "Father" was - Joseph Stalin, that "wise, God-established", "God-given Supreme Leader", who had served as "the instrument of Divine Providence" in saving Holy Russia (by extending the rule of militant atheism from Berlin to Peking!). Thus whereas the Popes introduced heresy into the Church by proclaiming themselves the Vicars of Christ, Sergius' Papism consisted in becoming the Vicar of the Antichrist! And, like the Popes, he justified his heresy on the grounds that only in this way could he save the Church!

     Thus in a real way Sergius subdued Russia to papism. Just as Old Rome fell through accepting that all truth was in the Pope, so the Third Rome, Russia, fell through accepting that all salvation was in the "Patriarch". 

     Hieromonk Nectarius (Yashunsky) has described how Sergius introduced papism into the Moscow Patriarchate: "Metropolitan Sergius' understanding of the Church (and therefore, of salvation) was heretical. He sincerely, it seems to us, believed that the Church was first of all an organization, an apparatus which could not function without administrative unity. Hence the striving to preserve her administrative unity at all costs, even at the cost of harming the truth contained in her. 

     "And this can be seen not only in the church politics he conducted, but also in the theology [he evolved] corresponding to it. 

     "In this context two of his works are especially indicative: 'Is There a Vicar of Christ in the Church?' (The Spiritual Heritage of Patriarch Sergius, Moscow, 1946) and 'The Relationship of the Church to the Communities that have Separated from Her' (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate). In the first, although Metropolitan Sergius gives a negative answer to the question (first of all in relation to the Pope), this negative answer is not so much a matter of principle as of empiricism. The Pope is not the head of the Universal Church only because he is a heretic. But in principle Metropolitan Sergius considers it possible and even desirable for the whole of the Universal Church to be headed by one person. Moreover, in difficult times in the life of the Church this person can assume such privileges even if he does not have the corresponding canonical rights. And although the metropolitan declares that this universal leader is not the vicar of Christ, this declaration does not look sincere in the context both of his other theological opinions and of his actions in accordance with this theology. 

     In the second cited article, Metropolitan Sergius explained the differences in the reception of heretics and schismatics, not on the basis of their objective confession of faith, but on the subjective (and therefore changeable) relationship of the Church's first-hierarch to them. Thus "we receive the Latins into the Church through repentance, but those from the Karlovtsy schism through chrismation". And so for Sergius, concludes Fr. Nectarius, "to be saved it is not the truth of Holy Orthodoxy but belonging to a legal church-administrative organization that is necessary"! 

     The last few years have demonstrated that Sergianism does not depend on the existence of Soviet power, but has entered into the very flesh and blood of the patriarchate. Thus recently the patriarch said about Sergius' declaration: "I do not renounce it, for it is impossible to renounce one's history... I think that in the present year we have been able to withdraw from under the state's trivial [sic!] charge and, therefore, we have the moral right to affirm the fact that Metropolitan Sergius' declaration is a fact belonging to the past, and we no longer are guided by it. At the same time, however, this does not mean that we are against the government..." 

     For, of course, Patriarch Alexis is never against the government. For in the last resort, as Fr. Peter Perekrestov points out, it is all a matter of power for him: "It is not important to them whether a priest is involved in shady business dealings or purely church activities; whether he is a democrat or a monarchist; whether an ecumenist or a zealot; whether he wants to serve Vigil for six hours or one; whether the priest serves a panikhida for the victims who defended the White House or a moleben for those who sided with Yeltsin; whether the priest wants to baptize by immersion or by sprinkling; whether he serves in the catacombs or openly; whether he venerates the Royal Martyrs or not; whether he serves according to the New or Orthodox Calendar - it really doesn't matter. The main thing is to commemorate Patriarch Alexis. Let the Church Abroad have its autonomy, let it even speak out, express itself as in the past, but only under one condition: commemorate Patriarch Alexis. This is a form of Papism - let the priests be married, let them serve according to the Eastern rite - it makes no difference, what is important is that they commemorate the Pope of Rome." 


     How can the neo-papist heresy of Sergianism be overthrown in Russia? Only by clearly recognizing the root of the heresy in the overthrow of the Orthodox autocracy and in the rejection of the Orthodox doctrine of Church-State relations. Such a recognition involves much more than a nostalgia for monarchism, more even than a veneration for the Tsar-Martyr. It means the recognition that the Orthodox autocracy is the crown of Christian society, its dogmatic completion. For, as Patriarch Anthony of Constantinople wrote to Great Prince Basil Dmitrievich in 1393: "It is impossible for Christians to have a Church, and not have a king; for the kingdom and the Church are in close union and communion with each other, and it is impossible to separate them." 

     It is impossible for Christians to have a Church and not have a king because "no city or house that is divided against itself will stand" (Matthew 12.25), and only an Orthodox king ruling in the image of the Heavenly King and chosen by Him alone can restore unity to a nation torn apart by a multitude of self-appointed leaders in Church and State. It is impossible for Christians to have a Church and not have a king because only in obedience to the king's autocratic and paternal authority can obedience to all lawful authorities, from the paterfamilias to our Father in the Heavens, be established. It is impossible for Christians to have a Church and not have a king because only an Orthodox king ruling in obedience to Christ the God-man is able to defend the Church against the false authorities that threaten to overwhelm her, and in particular the false authority based on the Hindu-Apollinarian-Papist-Jewish doctrine of the innate divinity of man - the dogma of the Man-god, the Antichrist. 

     And if some will say: then there is no hope, for we have no king, we shall answer: although we have no king, yet the mystery of the Orthodox kingship has not been destroyed and can be restored if we fervently beseech God for it; for the Mother of God has revealed in her miraculous Reigning icon, which appeared at the very moment of the abdication of the last tsar, that the symbols of kingly authority are in her hands...

     Once the backsliding Jews said: "We have no king, for we fear not the Lord, and a king, what shall he do for us?" (Hosea 10.3). And the Lord, the King of kings, said: "They have made kings for themselves, but not by Me... Therefore shall they be delivered up to the nations;… and they shall cease a little to anoint a king and princes" (Hosea 8.4,10).

     But then the Lord hearkened to the repentance of the Jews in Babylon and gave them again a king of the line of David, of whom He said: "It is he that shall build the Temple of the Lord, and shall bear royal honour, and shall sit and rule upon his throne. And there shall be a priest by his throne, and peaceful understanding shall be between them both" (Zechariah 6.13). Now, as then, repentance is possible and restoration is possible. Now, as then, we can still say: "The king shall be glad in God; everyone shall be praised that sweareth by him" (Psalm 62.10).


Vladimir Moss.

September 4/17, 1996.

Holy Prophet and God-seer Moses.


(Published in Russian as Dogmaticheskoe Znachenie Pravoslavnogo Samoderzhavia, Moscow, 1997)


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