December 5, 2009
By Matt Johnson
“Martyrdom is the Only True Virtue”
While a priest in the Soviet forced labor and death camps, Fr. Vasili Romanyuk, later to become Patriarch +Volodymyr of all Ukraine, wrote several epistles from prison. Within these, one can discern a very specific and well thought out social philosophy, albeit one contained within a very strict True Orthodox context. Within these letters and essays, the future Patriarch held that law and nationalism are necessary for an intelligent political life, that human rights are central to a moral political life, and even more, any contact with the Moscow Patriarch and the complacent and elitist World Council of Churches (WCC) is a betrayal of those suffering for the Orthodox faith in Ukraine and elsewhere in the Soviet Bloc. While this may be inconvenient for the Bound Brook Ukrainian ecumenists, the reality is that patriarch +Volodymyr was a witness and a sufferer for the True Orthodox vision–a vision that set itself against those semi-Orthodox bodies that have joined with the Moscow Patriarchate for the sake of worldly advancement and social prestige.
Ultimately, Fr. Vasili was sent to the GULAGs on four separate occasions that spanned the years 1949- 1959, and from 1972-1979, where he was finally released and escaped the USSR into Canada, where he became a monk, after the death of his wife, under Metropolitan +Mstyslav. Only when the USSR fell in Ukraine did +Mstyslav take his rightful place as Patriarch of an independent Ukraine, and now monk Volodymyr was made Metropolitan of Lv’iv and the heir apparent of +Mstyslav, who warned his synod against the machinations and corruption of metropolitan Filaret (some claim that Mstyslav had anathematized Filaret, but the latter’s great wealth and political connections made such an pronouncement of no effect ). He was never excommunicated by Mstyslav, as the absurd Wikipedia article on Volodymyr claims. Filaret was in the synod of Mstyslav as Volodymyr was, and hence, the Wikipedia claim is baseless and preposterous, as most Wiki claims are.
His two main essays, “Sons of Day and Sons of Night,” (1979) as well as “The Kingdom of God Within Us” (1979) are directed against the world Orthodox and their attachment to the fraudulent Moscow Patriarchate. For the then priest Vasili, the true Orthodox resisters “have no right to sleep because we are the light of the world.. . .one may be called righteous only if we are ready to lay down our life for our friends.” Of course, those who attached themselves to the MP were interested in saving their own skin. “Our Christian calling obligates us to categorically reject all the deeds of darkness, and enter into no compromises with the sons of night. . .” While the world Orthodox were comfortable, well ed, and complacent in their acceptance of the Moscow Patriarchate and the WCC who supported it, the future patriarch writes concerning the True Orthodox “There is no grumbling about their fate amongst them because they know whose sons they are, why they have been called into this world, and where they are going. . . no one has been given the right to be indifferent to the events of this world.” On the other hand, the world Orthodox have been led astray by “insidiousness, deceit, flattering words and the guise of ‘magnanimity,’” as the world persecutes the righteous. Even more, “The devil wants to legalize the interception of human souls for himself with the help of various secular laws that persuades Christians to agree with the legalization of lawlessness.”
But what remains steady in the patriarch’s words is that there can be no compromise here: “Let us not be diverted from our chosen path by any diabolical ‘peace’ proposals, because there can be nothing in common between darkness and light.” Clearly, this is not only directed against the left wing in western politics, but more importantly, the semi-Orthodox that have joined with Moscow and those others who have sought to compromise with anti-Christ rejecting their Christian calling for being comfortable in the mainstream of social life in the west: the same west that not only ignored the future patriarch’s many appeals, but continued to aid and trade with the Soviet bloc while the GULAG remained in motion. In an appeal to the world Orthodox to break with Moscow and the WCC, he writes “Therefore, what emerges fro the present sate of things is that the Christian community should not reconcile itself to the conditions which have come about in today’s world and should demand in those so-called ‘dialogues’ that the opposing side promptly change its attitude towards us!” That is, the suffering Orthodox in the catacombs. The WCC, needless to say, ignored Fr. Vasili’s appeals and continued to support the Moscow Patriarchate and its “world Orthodox” hangers on.
For Patriarch Volodymyr, the voice of Christ can be heard in the conscience of every Orthodox person. “It speaks to us constantly if we have not deadened it by our sins” he writes. For a man that spent a generation throughout the various GULAG camps in Russia and Ukraine, camps that the Moscow Patriarch denied even existed, he writes “It is namely our sins that prevent us from feeling the joy of the Kingdom of God already here on earth, and later become a hindrance to entering it, for according to the Word of God nothing impure will enter there.” This is an important theological point. The Kingdom of God and the transfiguration of nature and human relations has already been accomplished. Heaven exists on earth in the church in its fulness, but our sins keep us bound to the lower world of cause and effect, in short, the world of power and its relations. Unlike Catholicism, Protestantism and new Orthodoxy, heaven is merely a dimension of the created earth, bound together in lawfulness by the Logos, saved and transfigured by Christ, and it can be experienced here and now by the saints and great ascetics. It is not some far off world, not some “place up there” as the simple would have it, but within the church, within the ascetic struggle itself. Death is a simple transition to the possession of this kingdom with complete security, but a kingdom that can be accessed while still in the flesh. In other words, Christ has already accomplished this task of transfiguration, only humanity and its arrogance and pride has prevented itself from experiencing it. “Entire generations were lost in the murky thickets of centuries only because they believed not in God, but in corrupted human wisdom. And this is not all. Human wisdom inspired by a diabolical spirit, strives to somehow justify its abuse of people, embellishing it with great attributes and far fetched epithets in order to look enticing and pleasant to human hearing and sight because in this way it is easier to capture all kinds of credulous and naive people.”
For Fr. Vasili, the west was completely fooled by the leftist propaganda machine in and out of the USSR. Corrupted media, religious complacency and sheer ignorance and self-importance forbade western politicians and religious leaders to fully comprehend the Soviet menace. While the Nazis were condemned to the skies on a daily basis, being a Marxist was little less than chic in American universities. Marxist slogans without serious opposition were offered with a sneer from the overpaid academics in the modern west, comfortable with high salaries, tenure and little work to pontificate to their captive audiences in the classroom. Anti-communists were regularly denied tenure and driven out of universities on the charge of “anti-Semitism.” The west had, since World War I, followed the Marxists root and branch, offering the same promises, but under a system where the regime could be justified in periodic and tightly controlled elections. This the likes of Patriarch +Volodymyr and Solzhenitsyn knew very well. While “Holocaust survivors” became celebrities, GULAG inmates were forgotten, and their memory besmirched by huge American academic establishment who regularly considered the GULAG inmates “fascists” regardless. Even today, professional academic frauds have ignored the testimony of GULAG inmates among the expatriate Ukrainian and Russian exiles in America, while giving “Holocaust survivors” speaking fees of $100,000 and up. Had Solzhenitsyn not won the Nobel prize, he also would have gone down the Orwellian memory hole as well.
For Fr. Vasili in the GULAG, the Moscow Patriarchate was little more than a propaganda organization for the KGB. The fact that these men wore clerical dress and chanted the services meant nothing, none of that proved their Orthodoxy, only their usefulness. Today, the Ukrainians in Bound Brook, in full communion with Constantinople who never wavered in their support of the Moscow Patriarchate, would like to drop +Volodymyr down the memory hole, something that we cannot permit. For Fr. Vasili, the Moscow Patriarchate exists solely for the purposes of “self-liquidation,” in his words, a bureaucracy that exists to oversee the manipulation, alteration and eventual disintegration of religion in Russia and has no other purpose. Hence, the Moscow Patriarchate maintained close ties with the WCC to permit a further penetration of the propaganda to the “anti-communist” west. In fact, the WCC was a willing partner with the MP in flooding the west with false stories about “freedom of religion” in the Soviet Bloc. In fact, the future patriarch writes from prison, concerning the MP, “This church has no rights. It is unable to set in motion its own activity. Furthermore, it has been assigned the function of self-liquidation. . priests and active believers are submitted to various repressions while the hierarchy washes its hands of the matter. . .I have turned to the Moscow patriarchate several times, so that they could intervene in my defense, but on none of these occasions have I ever even heard a reply.” In dealing with the obliviousness of the corrupted west, he writes: “Brazenly and arrogantly the USSR persecutes believers while the Christian world not only remains silent, but signs various agreements with this country.” The phrase “Christian world” was uttered in sarcasm.
In mocking the western delegates at the 1975 WCC convention in Nairobi, Fr. Vasili writes: “. . .how the delegates of the west permitted themselves to be deceived and manipulated in everything! A visitation from the Lord! It cannot be called anything else. How benevolently and attentively they listen to the emissaries of falsehood and atheism cry out from the rostrums about the equal rights of believers and other citizens.” The “religious academics” gathered in Nairobi, with major foundation grants, to pontificate about the progressive nature of the USSR in order to satisfy their paymasters. These then went back to their universities and pompously pontificated about their sophistication and their world travels, as millions starved in the GULAG. As they piously prattled about ecumenism in their protected and tenured chairs, the true Christian world was liquidated. Those that spoke out were summarily called “fascists” and, even worse, “nationalists” by the apostles of openness and ecumenism.
The future Patriarch hence indicts the entire “world Orthodox” organization, the Phanar, Antioch, Alexandria and the OCA, as being part and parcel of the liquidation of the True Orthodox in Russia and Ukraine. Even worse, the flatulent, neo-Orthodox world of the OCA, themselves openly venerating KGB “Patriarch Nikodim” who created them, openly sided with the KGB hierarchy over the True Orthodox, the latter of which were anathematized as “schismatics” by the western “World Orthodox” organization and the WCC, of which the world Orthodox are merely a small branch office. These are the very same frauds: the wealthy Orthodox academics, millionaire bishops and worldly wise synods in “world Orthodoxy” who continue to call the underground Orthodox in Russia “schismatics” today, and even pronounce their mysteries graceless, while they stuff their faces at their parish picnics and vacation trips to the Antiochean Village. As they believe that the KGB Patriarchate who acquiesced to millions of Orthodox people being liquidated in the GULAG as “mainstream Orthodoxy,” they condemn the True Orthodox for their “lack of love.” The True Orthodox world does not receive grants from the Rockefeller Foundation.
For Patriarch Volodymyr, the only true virtue is in the acceptance of martyrdom: but the world of “mainline Orthodoxy” is the opposite of martyrdom: it is a compromise with the world for the sake of money and mainline prestige. The pseudo-bishops under the millionaire Philip Saliba meekly saw their sees taken away from them solely because Saliba controls millions of dollars who support their organizations and chancelleries, not to mention their medical benefits. The OCA has received millions in grants from the WCC and Archer Daniels Midland to finance their seminaries and “scholars.” But these same bishops, to acquiesce to all sorts of non-canonical outrages and sit on personal fortunes and tenured chairs, spit in the faces of the TOC and say we are “un-canonical.”
Patriarch +Volodymyr saw the same in the USSR in the 1970s. Certain KGB bishops, all of whom maintained communion with “world Orthodoxy,” were wealthy men who traveled the world preaching peace with the USSR and condemning the underground church as “graceless.” The Serbs, Antiocheans and especially the OCA nodded along with them, and turned to condemn the TOC as “lacking in compassion.” For Volodymyr, there could be no compromise with this mentality: they were as evil as the KGB who financed them. Fr. Vasili soon learned that the WCC was not going to help him in prison, but in fact were helping to finance his jailers. Was the OCA going to help the imprisoned in Russia, when they were created by the Moscow Patriarchate and the WCC that has assisted in the rounding up of underground Christians? But martyrdom is precisely this: rejecting the world and its pomps, and receiving the attacks of the world in return. While world orthodoxy can offer much money and academic respectability, it can not offer virtue, since the world of martyrdom is foreign to it. It cooperates with the princes of this world in order to continue to finance its activities and receive invitations to the major academic conferences.
“Evil has become more subtle these days,” patriarch Volodymyr writes, it needs not to continue rounding up the Christians, since none of them are willing to fight their jailers. The Orthodox can have their liturgy, their harmless theology AND worldly respect. But this is the voice of the anti-Christ, the one who says that you can have it both ways. Patriarch Volodymyr, spending most of his life in the GULAG, knows what a fraud this is, and therefore, throughout his pontificate, refused to commune with anyone within world Orthodoxy, and sought ties only with the Milan Synod of Auxentios for its own support of the TOC in Russia. What a mockery of his legacy are the well-fed Bound Brook and Johnstown groups and the pseudo-Patriarch Filaret, seeking recognition from Constantinople as a substitute for the faith and virtue. Neither Patriarchs +Mstyslav or +Volodymyr would commune with anyone who recognized the KGB patriarchate of Moscow as a matter of official synod policy, and therefore, sought ties only with the TOC. To reject this martyric legacy is solely based on the endless pursuit of filthy lucre and the approbation of Baal. For Volodymyr, human reason and the will that controls it is crippled by sin. This and only this is at the root of the fraud of world Orthodoxy and its support for anyone who finances them. It is a will so blinded by schism and sin that it can see only the approbation of the world as the only true good the good for which all other goods should be sacrificed.
Ultimately, our legacy is that of +Volodymyr and all the new confessors of Russia and Ukraine who would rather suffer a violent and horrific death than abandon Orthodoxy and the love of the nation. In the west, on the other hand, mainline Orthodoxy seeks to compromise with Pharaoh and his soldiers in exchange for a small place in the religious mainstream. The Milan Synod stands with its two founders, Auxentios of Athens and his ally, Patriarch Volodymyr of Ukraine, in rejecting the “world Orthodox” and seeking only martyrdom in this world of one kind or another as the only true virtue.
All quotes in this paper are taken from the collection of letters and epistles by Patriarch Volodymyr, A Voice in the Wilderness,published by The Society for the Study of Religion Under Communism, 1980