Sorrow, emotional distress, distress in the life of the Church, swaying among the faithful, misinformation, suspicion, loss of direction – is this all from God?
No. All of this has been brought about by the new metropolia in our Church Abroad - our unity has been dissolved. Our recently reposed First Hierarch of ROCOR Metropolitan Vitaly, foretold of these events saying: “Soon each of you will be placed on the edge of the sword and you will be forced to make a decision – to remain with Christ in His Immaculate Church, which means to choose the path of being a confessor or – to enter into association with the evil powers of this world, with the church of the antichrist. There is no other choice!”
And so the time has come, notwithstanding that in our hearts we do not wish to believe this and therefore we are postponing this event. We hope that somehow this betrayal will not take place. No, my dear and right-worthy co-pastors of the Christ’s Church. This betrayal has already occurred with the ROCOR(L) approval of the memorandum for unification with the unlawful MP. They have already made their decision as one of them stated: “things have gone too far in order to stop them now.” They are no longer interested in our articles, appeals, epistles. The time has come for us to make a decision and for us to come forth in public!
Especially now, because of this, we must not allow division among us during this dark time for the Church abroad. We must not hasten to criticize or blame for this schism those who have already separated from ROCOR(L). We must act not only with respect, but also with leniency and love for our fellow brethren. Otherwise, we will ourselves answer before God and we will give the MP good reason to gloat over our misfortune. Like at no other time, now is the moment when we must shown economia towards each other and the time has come when we must pray for the unification of all in Truth.
What then, putting it mildly, separates us at this time?
1. Some plan on remaining loyal “in spirit” to our Sacred Church Abroad, not to commemorate the “Patriarch” and so forth. This path cannot become our obligatory choice. This choice is the most perilous one because it is based on hypocrisy and hypocrisy is similar in nature to lying/falsehood.
2. Others recommend that we secretly incorporate ourselves and our parishes and to project an image in the meantime as if we are in agreement with this unification until May 17th. Here we again have the ever present element of hypocrisy. (item No. 4 further explains the issues that arise with making such a decision).
3. The third party simply lives in the hope that through some miracle the signing of the Memorandum on May 17th will not take place. Mentally picture the spiritual condition of all of the parishes abroad and the clergy, and you will see that this traitorous ruin of the Church has already occurred! The date – May 17th – does not hold any significance for us. This is their celebration – the triumph of “a new beginning”, the basis on which they will rejoice over the fact that they have rid themselves of the “outdated” Orthodoxy which had oppressed them for so long! They are capable of anything. Imagine the following nuance: they will preside at the “triumphal” co-celebration in Moscow on the Feast of the Ascension and then they will state that they did not sign the Memorandum because of some unresolved issues in which way they will again begin to torture your souls with false hopes.
4. Still others state that we remain united and take no action. Let the others leave the Church Abroad. In this way it will become more apparent under which Hierarch we will be able to reorganize ourselves. If one individual priest secedes then it is his own personal action. But if he secedes with his parish, then there is the danger of finding oneself in the jaws of the serpent. Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk and Siberia warns us of this spiritual corruption in his sorrowful epistle. You will find yourself with your parish on a list together with the uniates. The MP, having great financial resources, will overcome you. A legal proceeding will be very unfortunate for you. After all you allowed your ruling bishop to sign for you.
Time is passing all too quickly. March is already here! Besides, you may have practical problems. An extraordinary meeting must be convened in advance. Do you plan to serve on the Feast of the Ascension? If yes, then Church practice requires that you unite yourselves under the omophorion of a true lawful Hierarch.
I do not ask, instead I implore you to read the “Sorrowful epistle” written by Archbishop Tikhon (found at the following – www.catacomb.org.ua) as well as the appeal sent by three of our clergymen in Australia: Archpriests John Stukach, Michael Konstantinov and Priest Vladimir Tsukanov. In the epistle you will see that Vladyka Tikhon offers his hand with Christian love to us the orphaned flock abroad. Having seceded from ROCOR(L) and temporarily having found a place under his omophorion we are able to remain in the Sacred Church Abroad – the True Orthodox Church which continues its spiritually unaltered path according to the legacies of its Hierarchs of eternal memory: Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy, Philaret and Vitaly, Archbishop Averky (Taushev), Archimandrite Konstantin (Zaitsev) as well as others.
We remain at our posts, not entering into the fold of the Catacomb Church until such a day that our Lord indicates to us and we will be able to then see which of our hierarchs did not betray the Church. Then – united and without undue haste, the new hierarchal and diocesan structure of the Church will be determined.
I personally met with Archbishop Tikhon (he is 59 years old like myself). During the entire meeting which was attended by myself, my parish warden, head sister and others, we spent it in spiritually edifying conversation – none of us noticed any improper words, expressions containing dual meanings or questionable statements made at all. I heard the same impression from other clergy which met with him. He reminded me of the noble nature which I felt in the presence of Metropolitan Philaret, Metropolitan Vitaly and Archbishop Averky whom I served as an altar boy, holding his bishop’s staff in Holy Trinity Monastery since the time I was seven years old.
When we speak of “suspensions” and consequently “lawfulness” – we must not forget who imposed and continues to impose this undeserved ban in the MP’s favour. The ROCOR(L) in its self-betrayal verified this in its discussion on the issue concerning “the unlawful existence of our parishes on the canonical territory belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate” (Resolution of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops – dated September 6, 2005), as well as the proposal to “cease Canonical Communion with the old-calendar Greek, Romanian and Bulgarian groups¹.” This is due to the fact that our possible Canonical Communion with the MP will be unacceptable to them (see the same).
Forgive me if my appeal seems to you to have an instructional motive. I believe that many others have different reasons, parish difficulties and conditions which I may have failed to consider.
We have been accustomed to flowing with the current while holding onto the hem of the bishop’s mantia. Now the time has come for us to reexamine our personal faith – that of our heart, of our hope and trust!
May our Lord God help us in these matters.
With love in Christ,
Archpriest Stefan Sabelnik, rector.
Church of the Holy Dormition March 2007
789 Shady Ln
Trenton, NJ 08619
Tel.: (609) 586-54-55