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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Elections and inconstancy in the fold of the church

20 August, 2014 - 17:26

Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. The humanitarian aid convoy that is stubbornly pushing forward like a tank column from Russia is, of course, the king’s will. The autocrat just wished to show that he can not only fire guns, but also dish out breads   – and he did it. “I am the king”         – what else can be added to this?

Electing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, (UOC MP) throne occupant is undoubtedly a sphere of divine subjection. Down with the secular authorities – only He can intervene in the process! But spiteful tongues claim that it is not doves and heavenly lights that heralded to the Ukrainian flock the coming of the new primate Onufrii. Many saw a white-red-blue smoke over the Lavra’s domes. So did I. Let me quote the words of Metropolitan Onufrii of Chernivtsi and Bukovyna in his February interview with the portal pravoslavie.ru:

“The first and foremost mission of the church is to save human souls. This divine grace of salvation still exists in our church – the Russian Orthodox Church. What more can be sought in the church? The people who pursue their own, not God’s, interests in the church want separation. Should this happen, it will be against God’s will. If this occurs, I think Orthodoxy will be in a very grave danger in Ukraine, I am even convinced that it will be destroyed.”

He said it, as if he had dispersed clouds. That’s right – many Caesars lay claim to what is God’s. And it is not only Caesars, as the metropolitan’s interviewer, a little-known hegumen, noted. “Can we say,” he asked again, “that the problems of religious life in Ukraine stem from those who can be called the newly-converted?” (The hegumen must have meant people who have developed new persuasions and views.)

“This is right,” the hierarch began to indulge in confidences, “because they understand and love the church to a lesser extent. They think it is a human organization which can be manipulated. They are not clearly aware that the church has its own laws, rules, and head. The church has Christ as its head, and it should follow Christ, not politicians” (http://www.pravoslavie.ru/smi/ 68718.htm).

Indeed, it is not a human organization. It sings hosannas to criminals, prays to the earthly king, and blesses Satan missiles and fire emplacements on belfries. If things go on like this, patriarchs, together with the generalissimo, will one day climb up above the holy relics of Lenin in his mausoleum and inspect the parade of those who distinguished themselves in a war against Ukraine.

To save the organization from the horrid destiny of Sodom and Gomorrah, Patriarch Kirill heeded Onufrii’s words and raised Orthodoxy and Nationality a cut above Autocracy. He began to congratulate Petro Poroshenko, condemn violence, and even hinted at the necessity to end the holy war. The secular hierarch could not tolerate his colleague’s revolt, but he chose not to execute him but just to show the patriarch, in a divine way, his proper place outside TV coverage. No more does his grace flow in the air, his words are subdued, and the church, including the UOC MP, is embarrassed (http://politsovet.ru/45975-patriarch-ne-nuzhen.htm).

What is to be done? To separate from the state according to the Bolshevik doctrine and European rules? Or to go on serving Yeshua who was born and raised in the family of Joseph and Mary, who lived in Nazareth as if it were part of the Russian World? We are used to separations and know the cost of them. Not all the museums, boarding schools, and lands are under the holy wing now, some are still at sinners’ disposal, which is bad. Give the ungodly one a domed finger, and he will bite off the whole territory.

Staying behind in the Russian World is not much of an option, either, because the Ukrainian flock will run away. In the Kyiv land, there are fewer parishioners but more believers than in Russia. And          thousands of parishes, where moneychangers are in no way being driven out of temples, need constant care. In a word, Kirill and Onufrii are in dire straits.

If their subordinate priests were more complaisant and not tied up to their estates, they could tend the wounded, feed the hungry, and help the wretched no matter what party they belong to. And, who knows, they could perhaps save the honor of the cassock. But they have forgotten what it is to serve people. For it is not a humanitarian-style organization, as the person to be enthroned rightly noted. The church is not a sleeve. If you tear it off the state’s overcoat, you won’t sew it onto the people’s vest so easily. And it is clear that a church wedding according to a strict price list and unthinkable expenditures on sufferers are entirely different things. There are millions of sufferers who will squander any budgets and plunge temples into desolation.

But this is not the main problem under the domes that look equally charming on Mykola Pymonenko’s and Isaac Levitan’s canvases and in the landscapes of Poltava and Suzdal. Let us appreciate the common heritage. Never mind the greedy priests, the bosses’ faces over iconostases, and pastors’ palaces in squalid neighborhoods. It would be unnecessary to hurry hierarchs to identify Rus’ as one that originated in Kyiv or in Moscow, if it were not for an accursed problem.

How come the struggle for unity of the church led to a split in the flock? Priests are united, but parishioners are furiously thrashing one another on both sides of the front line – not like in olden times, when merchants and boyars wielded their fists around, but as befits the present day – with tanks and rockets. We sing the same psalms, our ecclesiastical sacraments look like two peas in a pod, but we fight like Huguenots. It is quite clear that Catholics and Protestants had scores to settle in the Middle Ages. But in our country, it is total sacrilege in the same fold of the church. Of course, there have been idiots in all the times, who were ready to eliminate their physical likes for being spiritually different. But it is an exceptional case in history when one hierarchal ambo takes on another, as if it were a foe. And if this case turns out to be a casus belli, who must repent, who must be saved for eternal and temporary life, and what must be forgiven for our descendants’ edification? A few years later, an unprejudiced seminary student may well ask: how come the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, came out for both Ukraine and Moscow on different sides of the front line? Not because of living outside politics, I presume?

Naturally, the church is not an armored train. So, it does not befit it to stand on the sidetrack of Putin’s war, for its authority will fall in the eyes of public opinion, and it will run the risk of being considered just a sect in the realm of world religion. Denominations usually live in peace. Nobody, except for Sunnites and Shiites, seeks Allah and, all the more so, God in shootouts. Therefore, one must switch from Putin’s fundamentalism to the ideas of the Sermon on the Mount and the Bible’s fundamental provisions. Let the faithful of different worlds and nationalities make the sign of the cross, but the Orthodox Church should observe its testaments and traditions. And let an anathema be pronounced on the aggressor from ambos. We can’t possibly curse Count Leo Tolstoy alone for war and peace.

By Oleksandr PRYLYPKO