Sunday, August 9, 2015

Russian Orthodoxy in Exile

My Life's Journey
The Memoirs of Metropolitan Evlogy
As Put Together according to His Accounts by T. Manukhin
Part Two
Translated by Alexander Lisenko
St. Vladimir's Seminary Press
Yonkers, New York, 2014

It cost me a lot to read volume two of Metropolitan Evlogy's memoirs, well, just because that is what they are and it is something I vow never to do: no diary, no journals, no memoirs! I am not faulting those who made this gift to humanity; it just is not for me. Hence, you might say, my revulsion over something which I could never bring myself to do.

I reviewed "Part One" last April and must say that I was fascinated by the Metropolitan's observations concerning this part of the world, which has also been mine now for almost four years. "Part Two" is very different in the sense that it describes really Evlogy's struggle to carve out an existence for a part of the Russian world set adrift by Bolshevism, practically on his own in the midst of competing church structures or superstructures claiming his allegiance while failing to prove their authority or legitimacy over him.

Has the Roman Catholic Church ever been this far adrift, so totally deprived of its moorings? Maybe at the time of the Great Western Schism? It is hard to say, but in the case of Russian Orthodoxy I think the premises are missing: Evlogy's malaise indeed is that of the Third Rome, which cannot justify its claims.

In Part Two, the Metropolitan makes thoroughly clear his utter disdain for the Catholic Church. Reading the chapter on ecumenism, I could not help but wonder if it does not represent the Russian Orthodox view today. The only reason we might have for doubting that would be an a priori assumption that the world has changed: not really tenable. 

Who is Evlogy, you might ask, and why should I hold him representative of the Russian world and its religion today? Good question and one for which I really don't have an answer.
* * *
On a very different note, it would seem that the Metropolitan despairs of keeping his church alive in exile. He talks about the failure of his French language parish, saying that it just isn't the same, that the children of Russian emigres are lost per force. This topic has constant relevance when we are talking about the Christians of the Middle East as they are being driven from their ancient homelands. Will they survive elsewhere as Syrians, Copts, Melchites, Maronites or Chaldeans? Evlogy seems to join his voice to the chorus of those who say no, that without a homeland as a point of reference, no.

I think we have much to entrust to the intercession of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who did what they did at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, gifting a world beyond the Greeks with a Byzantine heritage which in the Baptism of the Rus took root and blossomed among the Slavic peoples starting from Kyiv and prince Volodymyr.

Don't get me wrong! I stand with Catholic teaching so well interpreted thirty years ago in Slavorum Apostoli:

"31. To you, therefore, God the Father Almighty, God the Son who have redeemed the world, God the Spirit who are the sustainer and teacher of all holiness, I desire to entrust the whole Church of yesterday, today and tomorrow, the Church both in Europe and throughout the earth. Into your hands I commit this singular wealth, made up of so many different gifts, ancient and new, placed in the common treasury by so many different sons and daughters.

The whole Church thanks you, who called the Slav nations into the communion of the faith, for this heritage and for the contribution made by them to the universal patrimony. The Pope of Slav origin in a special way thanks you for this. May this contribution never cease to enrich the Church, the Continent of Europe and the whole world! May it never fail in Europe and in the world of today! May it never fade from the memories of our contemporaries! We desire to accept in its entirety everything original and valid which the Slav nations have brought and continue to bring to the spiritual patrimony of the Church and of humanity. The whole Church, aware of this common treasure, professes her spiritual solidarity with them and reaffirms her own responsibility towards the Gospel, for the work of salvation which she is called upon to accomplish also today in the whole world, unto the ends of the earth. It is essential to go back to the past in order to understand, in the light of the past, the present reality and in order to discern tomorrow. For the mission of the Church is always oriented and directed with unfailing hope towards the future.

32. The future! However much it may humanly speaking seem filled with threats and uncertainties, we trustfully place it in your hands, Heavenly Father, invoking upon it the intercession of the Mother of your Son and Mother of the Church, the intercession of your Apostles Peter and Paul, and of Saints Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, of Augustine and Boniface and all the other evangelizers of Europe who, strong in faith, hope and charity, proclaimed to our fathers your salvation and your peace, and amid the toils of the spiritual sowing began to build the civilization of love and the new order based on your holy law and the help of your grace, which at the end of the age will give life to all things and all people in the heavenly Jerusalem. Amen!

To you, dear brothers and sisters, my Apostolic Blessing."

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 2 June, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, in the year 1985, the seventh of my Pontificate.


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