Религиозная организация
Русская Древлеправославная Церковь



Holy fathers consider belief in dreams which fully captured Pyotr Velikodvorskiy as spiritual deception: "Devils often transform themselves into angels of light and take the form of martyrs, and make it appear to us during sleep that we are in communication with themThen, when we wake up, they plunge us into unholy joy and conceit. But you can detect their deceit by this very fact.For angels reveal torments, judgments and separations; and when we wake up we find that we are trembling and sad. As soon as we begin to believe the devils in dreams, then they make sport of us when we are awake, too. He who believes in dreams is completely inexperienced. But he who distrusts all dreams is a wise man. Only believe dreams that foretell torments and judgment for you” (Saint John Climacus) 33.

On March 1st, 1836, being 27 years of age Pyotr Velikodvorskiy becomes a monk with the name of Paul. At the same time, together with monk Gerontius, he begins his first travel abroad. They travelled to "Persia, Georgia and other places near the mount Ararat where allegedly since ancient times Christians had hidden away invariably keeping the ancient faith with bishops which had never accepted Nikonian novelties”34.

The next travel started only in spring of 1839 not with the travel to the East but with movement of monk Paul with one fellow traveller, monk Alimpiy, to Austria-Hungary, to the village of Belaya Krynista where in an Ancient Orthodox monastery they planned to settle a future bishop. Having solved all necessary issues related to arrangement of a bishop’s stay monks went to Moscow in 1842. Because of their arrival a meeting of the Moscow community was organised at Rogozhskoye cemetery where "it was decided that establishment of a new ritual bishop office abroad to meet the needs of the current persecution times is a necessary and important affair, that the affair of establishing an office in Belaya Krynitsa monastery is worthy of unanimous approval and shall be assisted by all means... everybody agreed that, first of all, care shall be taken to find a bishop from Ancient Orthodox Christians and if such one is not found eventually despite all due search it is possible to bring a bishop from heresy”35.

It was this private decision of just Rogozhskoye community and not the Council of 1832 as some erroneously believe that was the fundamental for subsequent establishment of Ancient Orthodox hierarchy which went down into history under the name of Belaya Krynitsa.

In early 1845 monks Paul and Alimpiy having received passports in Vienna started searching for a bishop who would have kept pre-Nikonian godliness. But that trip also ended with nothing: having travelled across Slovenia, Montenegro and Serbia, by mid-April 1845, they returned to Belaya Krynitsa. On June 4th of the same year monks went to the East. Having travelled across several countries and having not found an Ancient Orthodox bishop they started searching for a heretic bishop who would agree to join the Ancient Orthodoxy through an appropriate acceptance of rank.

After several failures they eventually found in Constantinople a bishop without an office who after long persuasion finally agreed to join. That bishop was former metropolitan of Bosnia Ambrose who lost his office and lived in Constantinople on a small pension. This last fact played the decisive role in his decision to join the basis of which was a written condition (agreement) in accordance with which this metropolitan agreed to perform for Ancient Orthodox Christians ordination of a bishop in exchange for a lifetime material support. Thus, the metropolitan wrote in this bilateral agreement dated April 16th, 1846, that he committed to "immediately to ordain another bishop as our priest”, while in exchange for doing so the monks on behalf of the monastery committed "to provide him with full maintenance in the monastery, in all peace and satisfaction during his entire life”. "This condition is made in duplicate so that both parties keep it without any violation”.

Naturally, having taken decision to join only due to severe material needs, metropolitan Ambrose was far from considering himself to be a heretic. He did not look for eternal salvation of his soul in the Ancient Orthodox Church, on the contrary, believing himself to be really an Orthodox sanctifier he joined the Ancient Orthodox Christians with an intention to head them. He wrote about himself in this way: "I, Metropolitan Ambrose, not wishing any more to spend my life in idleness... to follow the words of Jesus Christ spoken in the parable about spiritual production: «Occupy till I come», and since "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel” I wished to join the old ritual church in the rank of a Metropolitan above all other priests and laymen who are members of this religion as their supreme priest”. He stated his motivation quite clearly here – he is "a candle” and goes to Ancient Orthodox Christians only not "to spend my life in idleness” and to be their supreme priest. And not a word that he goes from darkness to light, from heresy to the truth. He went to save, not to save himself. Also, in his letter dated January 30th, 1848, to an Austrian minister, Count Insagi, Metropolitan Ambrose explained motivation behind his move by his reasonless deposition from a Bosnian metropolitan office and meagre material support.

The metropolitan was accepted in communication not by the Council of the entire church as it had been envisaged before but by just a meeting of old ritual communities of Bukovina. The metropolitan presented no convincing evidence of his baptism which was an obligatory measure as pouring baptism was common in Greece: "Quite numerous documents of Constantinople patriarchs of XVII, XVIII and even XIX centuries testified to common use and long existence of such tradition”36. Moreover, no research was carried out about baptism of patriarch Gregory who ordained metropolitan Ambrose. Also, there were other violations related to joining of metropolitan Ambrose, and there is no necessity to dwell upon them here in greater detail.

After his joining metropolitan Ambrose immediately fulfilled the condition of the Constantinople agreement and ordained his successor, bishop Kirill of Mainos. That was the beginning of the old ritual hierarchy which received its name by the place of its origin - Belaya Krynitsa hierarchy.

The first bishop ordained for Russian Christians - bishop of the Belaya Krynitsa hierarchy Sophronius (Zhyrov) - turned out to be a dishonest man; he was admitted guilty of simony, trade of church ranks. Zhyrov resorted to simony in Russian from 1849 to 1853 heading all Russian communities which acknowledged the Belaya Krynitsa hierarchy. Members of Belaya Krynitsa wrote about their first Russian supreme priest: "Even before Archbishop Antonius, Sophronius was ordained as bishop for Russia from the Belaya Krynitsa Metropolitan under the name of Bishop of Siberia. But being the only bishop in Russia for the Ancient Orthodox Church he did not wish to grow this grape of Christ duly, but, being overwhelmed with greed for money, he started to spoil the Ancient Orthodox hierarchy with simony”37.

Not only Sophronius Zhyrov was caught in a greed for money and a vice of simony but also metropolitan Kirill who ordained him. At least, archbishop Antoniy (Shutov), the second by rank priest of Russian communities in the Belaya Krynitsa hierarchy, wrote this evidence about Kirill. In his letter to a head of Neokruzhnik communities, bishop Antoniy (Klimov), Shutov accuses his metropolitan of the fact that he had ordained Klimov for money: "Remember that you bought yourself a rank of archpriest for money given by Muravlyov: for your ordination Kryuchkov paid 1000 rubles to metropolitan Kirill, 300 rubles to priest Sisoy for a church, so it means that Kryuchkov was paid 1500 silver rubles in total”38. In his turn, bishop Antoniy (Klimov) gave very bad reviews about archbishop Antoniy (Shutov): "You sent abroad your minion messengers: bishop Justin and monk-deacon Hyppolitus with lots of gold to dazzle our God-loving bishops with it and petition the Moscow throne for yourself”39; "You likened yourself to that heretic Cynic... you are ready to forgive all sins of your priests for money”40.

Thus, it is not a surprise that seeing all these serious canonical violations and endless internal squabbling of the Belaya Krynitsa priests Ancient Orthodox Christians made their own appropriate conclusions about the Belaya Krynitsa hierarchy in general and decisively guarded themselves from any communication with it and its followers.

Having refuted this dubious hierarchy Ancient Orthodox Christians remained in the former position and continued to receive pastoral direction from priests who ran away from the new ritual church. That is why the name of "run-away priest Christians” was widely used by our enemies to call our Christians although they have never used and never use this name to call themselves. The only true and acceptable name for our Christians is Ancient Orthodox Christians, i.e. anciently Orthodox Christians. We were "run-away priest Christians” for the synodic church and the administrative authorities of the Russian Empire. We were also known under this name among the old ritual communities. But neither hatred nor contempt of enemies of the Church could shake the faith of its sincere and loyal children.

As we have already said before, since it was impossible for long decades due to known circumstances to summon the Ancient Orthodox Council attended by representatives of all Ancient Orthodox Christian communities both inside the Russian Empire and from abroad, our ancestors had no due council ruling about numerous issues of canonical and liturgical procedures. Communities were practically autonomous and urgent religious issues were solved there only by opinions of the most authoritative members of congregation: priests, readers, supervising merchants and senior choir singers.

It is quite probable also that in the second half of the XIX century the most urgent issue for our fathers was the issue related to an attitude to the ruling Greek-Russian church. Acceptance of run-away priests to various Ancient Orthodox communities continued to be carried out in different methods under traditions which had been used in such communities most often in the past. For example, deacons’ communities preferred acceptance of priests coming from the new ritual church under the so-called third rite, i.e. by renunciation of Nikonian novelties and confession. While the major part of Ancient Orthodox Christians accepted priests looking for the truth under the second rite, i.e. by renunciation from novelties and anointment by holy consecration oil which our Christians had kept from the time of godly patriarchs and diluted it, if necessary, with anointing oil (vegetable oil) in accordance with the church canon41.

There also were disagreements about attitude towards legal registration of church communities in state and administrative bodies of the Russian Empire and about praying for a ruling monarch, and others.

Nevertheless, all these disagreements were never an obstacle for the major thing: coming to understand that we are Ancient Orthodox Christians and brothers in Christ. Disagreements were never an obstacle for us to unite our powers to preserve the single Orthodox Church of Christ using the solid foundation of the spiritual heritage of holy Russia before the schism.

The XX century came.

On April 17th, 1905, Emperor Nicholas II signed a document which was very progressive for that time, his own Imperial Edict "On Strengthening of Fundamentals of Religious Tolerance” which actually declared the freedom of religion.

Spiritual freedom was granted to everybody, including Ancient Orthodox Christians. Of special importance was the fact that this Edict on granting this freedom was enacted on the eve of the Holy Pascha which was quite symbolic. Pascha in translation to the Russian language means passover: Passover from death to life, Passover from sorrow to joy, Passover from slavery to freedom.

Words are not enough to reflect the unspoken joy which all Russian Ancient Orthodox Christians felt at that day! Touching words of the paschal canon spoken at that time all over Russia acquired special meaning, special exultation: "When they who were held by the chains of hell beheld Thy boundless compassion, O Christ, they hastened to the light with joyful feet, exalting the eternal Pascha”. It was the Pascha of Resurrection of Christ and, at the same time, the Pascha of liberation of His earthly Church from the yoke of Peter I’s Russia. Truly, the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church of Christ (Matthew 16, 18).

Edict of Emperor Nicholas II "On Strengthening of Fundamentals of Religious Tolerance” is comparable by its importance for the Church of Christ only with the Edict of Milan on freedom of religion which was signed in winter of 313 by Emperors Saint Constantine the Great and Licinius. Emperor Constantine’s edict put an end to the era of martyrs, pagan persecutions against the Church, and proclaimed the spiritual freedom and equality for everybody, while Emperor Nicholas’ edict put an end to old ritualist persecutions against the Ancient Orthodox faith. Whatever the difference between these two monarchs they will always be remembered by Christians for through them merciful God granted peace to the Church of Christ in accordance with the true words of the Holy Scriptures: "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will”(Proverbs 21, 1).

It was the beginning of the time that went down into history as the golden age of the Ancient Orthodoxy. Our Christians received a possibility without any hindrance to organise the life of the earthly Church. During that comparatively short period of freedom preceded by the long years of yoke of ungodliness the Ancient Orthodoxy made an enormous spiritual and material progress.

At that time the major task for Ancient Orthodox Christians "who have been scattered” becomes unification of communities under the single religious management and the search of a bishop sharing their views for full restoration of canonical church hierarchy which had been lost after the schism through the fault of our new ritualist persecutors.

As we have already said before our ancestors made several attempts to find a lawful Ancient Orthodox bishop. To this end, starting yet from the first decades of the XVIII century, godly Ancient Orthodox Christians had been in search of such hierarchs. Authorised delegations from Ancient Orthodox communities travelled to Greece, the Caucuses, the Middle and Far East, even to Africa, to find them. Sometimes, such searches lead to some results but it became evident soon that a hierarch they had found was unacceptable for some canonical reasons, his joining was declared as erroneous and he was expelled from the Church according to the Apostle’s words: "Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person”(1 Corinthians 5, 13).

The most sorrowful of these mistakes which shook the Church with another schism which was comparable by its tragic results with the schism of the XVII century was acknowledgement by a part of Ancient Orthodox Christians of Greek metropolitan Ambrose as their head. We have dwelt upon this subject at length above. While the other part of Ancient Orthodox Christians forming the long-suffering Russian Ancient Orthodox Church laying their hopes with the Providence waited and searched for such hierarch which would meet fully all Orthodox canonical requirements and would wish to join the Ancient Orthodoxy not for mundane expectations but, first of all, for the purpose of saving his own soul.

To fulfil both this objective and also the objective of the church unification it was necessary to summon a council of the entire church. The organisational work on summoning of such Council thanks to efforts of numerous advocates of ancient godliness soon brought the successful result. The 1st All-Russian Congress of Ancient Orthodox Christians opened in Nizhny Novgorod in May 1908. Representatives of all centres of the Ancient Orthodoxy attended this Congress. Before this great event the Church had also held periodical Councils or Congresses, but, as a rule, all of them were of local importance and were attended by representatives of communities form one or two regions, subsequently, they could not represent opinions of the entire Church. As an example, we may note the so-called Volsky councils which were summoned several times by Ancient Orthodox Christians of the Lower Volga region starting from 1890. But all of these Councils and Congresses could not be compared with the 1st All-Russian Congress. Indeed, during the entire history of the Ancient Orthodoxy it was the first Congress with such a wide representation: it was attended by deputies from all over Russia, even from its most remote corners. Also, there were representatives from Ancient Orthodox communities of Turkey and Romania. Of special importance was the fact that chapel old ritualists of the Urals also participated in this Congress. It was outstanding for the number of persons who attended it - 500 delegates with 200 delegates with the right of a deciding vote. This very big number of attendees, moreover that the Congress was held at the time of start of agricultural works, vividly shows the great importance which our fathers attached to those issues which were raised at the Congress: the church unification, institution of the All-Russian Brotherhood, a management body of the entire church, search of a bishop, establishment of communities all over the country, educational activities, etc. All these issues which were the major points of the Congress agenda had been sent to communities in advance.

By the overwhelming majority of votes the Congress ruled on establishment of the All-Russian Brotherhood with the Council instituted in the stricture of this management body to provide organisational and administrative management over Ancient Orthodox communities for the time of absence of bishops. The Charter of the All-Russian Brotherhood designed by a commission specially elected at the Congress was also approved unanimously. Further on, the Brotherhood Council of 30 people was elected so that the Council would include one or two authorised persons from every more or less substantial area of residence of Ancient Orthodox Christians.

Later, upon a ruling of the III All-Russian Ancient Orthodoxy Congress (1910) the Brotherhood was officially renamed to the All-Russian Ancient Orthodoxy Brotherhood named after Saint Nicholas. Institution of the All-Russian Brotherhood was not something new; the history of the Church of Christ already there were periods when the Church organisational and administrative body, for objective reasons, was headed by priests and godly laymen. The last historic example in favour of institution of the Brotherhood of Ancient Orthodox Christians which accepted priests from Greek-Russian Church was the positive experience of West Russian Orthodox Brotherhoods of the 15-16 centuries in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. At that time Orthodox Brotherhoods successfully repelled heretical attacks of Uniates, Catholics, Protestants, Antitrinitarians and other heretical and antichristian communities. Besides, these Brotherhoods being a form of preservation of traditions of the Holy Russia acted as advocates of Orthodox Christians to civil rulers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in secular issues.

No less important and decisive act of the 1stAll-Russian Congress was the positive ruling on search of a bishop sharing outlooks of Ancient Orthodox Christians from cathedral (not retired) new ritual bishops.

In those glorious days God brought to plough the field of church construction many kind labourers who made an invaluable input in the case of restoration of the Ancient Orthodox Church after multi-year period of persecutions and miseries. Let us name just a few of them. Among priests – Father Philipp Petrin from Nizhny Novgorod, Father Nichola Mikulshin from Volsk, Father Vasiliy Argentov from Khvalynsk, Father Andrey Dmitriyevskiy from Moscow. Among laymen – the Chairman of the Council of the All-Russian Brotherhood, one of the largest  bread manufacturers of Russia, Nizhny Novgorod merchant, councillor, Nichola Aleksandrovich Bugrov, the Chairman of the Council of Nikolsk-Rogozhskaya community, Moscow merchant and manufacturer Mikhail Fedorovich Yasashnov, Rostov merchant Nikolay Alekseyevich Panin, financier Timofei Nikitich Andreyevskiy, book publisher Lev Alekseyevich Malekhonov, lawyer Konstantin Grigoriyevich Rubanov who was the chairman of the first and of the three subsequent All-Russian Congresses, entrepreneur Alexander Mikhailovich Rybolov, reader Antonin Yakovlevich Vasiliyev and many other Christians. Eternal commemoration of them all in Christ!

At that time our fathers just found the way which was supposed to bring them to the long-cherished goal. The fundamental was built and, that is why, the First Congress is so vital. But enormous work was yet to be done: to fulfil the Congress decrees, to unite spiritual millions of people into a single body moved by just God’s Spirit.

Many years of work and search, completions and disappointments were yet ahead, but at that time, in 1908, our Christians made the first certain step on this sophisticated but salvific path of church accomplishments. The first step was made; the first decisive word was spoken.

Ancient Orthodox Christians were creating the Body of Christ in one united powerful impulse. Beautiful churches and monasteries, schools and publishing houses were built all over the country. Our Christians did not forget about the needs of their Motherland, those who were able made generous donations to social works, to open hospitals, asylums, charity houses, homes for the homeless, public and administrative buildings.

Subsequent All-Russian Congresses were held in the same atmosphere of unprecedented spiritual uplift gradually putting to order all church issues, coordinating renovation of all aspects of the church life. The II All-Russian Congress was held on 10-15 May 1909 in Nizhny Novgorod. The III Congress was held on 12-15 May 1910 also in Nizhny Novgorod, the IV Congress was held in Volsk on 20-23 May 1912.

Without doubt, such activity of Ancient Orthodox Christians could not but attract attention of various political parties which were especially numerous at those years in Russia. All of them tried to obtain the support of our Christians; however, they were not interested in political games of adherents of different faiths who were inebriated with an unexpected freedom. The Chairman of the Council of the All-Russian Brotherhood Nichola Aleksandrovich Bugrov skilfully stated the attitude of Ancient Orthodox Christians to the politics at that time. Politicians showed extreme interest in him as a quite known and influential man in the state, for example, in 1907 when the III State Duma was elected he found himself in the lists of two parties: the Black Hundreds and the Octobrists. However, Nichola Aleksandrovich definitely refused from these political benefits and said that «until now I have not joined any political party, but, wishing the soonest, if possible, salvation of our country and being a supporter of development of legal order I shall oppose violence and arbitrariness whatever form they take and whatever flag they raise, white or red”42. This is the political position of Ancient Orthodox Christians up to date.

The V All-Russian Congress of Ancient Orthodox Christians was held in the unique historic atmosphere, both for the Russian people and the Church of Christ, in Moscow, from 16 to 18 July 1917. The monarch power in Russia fell, and this event of landmark scale affected all perceptions of the Russian society. Besides, the World War continued, and the Civil War just started.

Ancient Orthodox Christians did not consider it possible to stay away from events which greatly influenced their Motherland. The Fifth Congress, apart from discussion of canonical issues, also considered political issues but only to the extent that such issues could be of importance to the Church of Christ. The Congress passed several resolutions prepared by a political commission specially organised by the Congress relating to the political situation of that time in Russia. In particular, about the war with Germany, the Congress declared: "admitting that the war is burdensome and destroys the life of the country, it is desirable to end it as soon as possible, but the peace may be made only in a way which is beneficial for Great Russia in full unity with our valorous allies; yet, we are ready to make further sacrifices and continue the war to strengthen achieved freedoms and preserve the integrity of Russia not wishing to give away to the enemy even a tiny part of our land and be enslaved; neither we wish enslavement of other nations”. According to the request of Ancient Orthodox soldiers the Congress took a decision to send priests to the fronts of the World War One for spiritual guidance of Ancient Orthodox Christians who "fought for their neighbours”. Monk priests Saphronius (Popov), Clement (Logvinov) and Pansophius (Ivliev) as well as priests Alexander Kovalevskiy, Alexander Sokolov, and Ioannes Trakhonitovskiy volunteered to go the front for this purpose.

The Congress spoke about the new political and governmental order that under such order "the situation of old ritualists has improved somewhat and we further wish that we, old ritualists, shall have equal rights with other citizens of Russia”. "We, old ritualists, wish that Russia shall be a democratic and republican political system with a president elected from Christians”.

The attitude of our Christians to godless Bolsheviks who strived to seize power in Russia at that time was concisely but clearly and even prophetically stated in the official printed newspaper of the Ancient Orthodox Church – "Brotherhood” journal: "Do not vote for Bolsheviks andinternationalist social revolutionaries for they lead the country to perish and destruction”43.

Yet, without doubt, the Congress was summoned not only to discuss publicly important issues, but, first of all, to discuss issues of the Church. Among them the most important ones were organisation of the Ancient Orthodox University, training courses for Ancient Orthodox teachers, opening of schools for children of Ancient Orthodox Christians all over the country. It was also decided to petition the Provisional Government to return "churches, monasteries, antimensions, icons, and other liturgical property, both movable and immovable” which had been taken away from our Christians before.

The Congress also paid much attention to the issue of a search of a bishop: "Enjoying full freedom under the new government and absolute termination of any persecution of old ritualists the Congress requests the Brotherhood Council to undertake the most energetic measures to find a Bishop with an office in the current rank and his adoption into our Ancient Orthodox Church under the second rite in accordance with resolutions of previous All-Russian Congresses”.

And measures were really undertaken. A special delegation held negotiations with several bishops of the new ritualist church, however, the Bolshevik coup d’état which soon occurred in Russia threw the country into the bloody chaos and did not allow our Christians to make their wishes come true at that time.

The V Congress also witnessed an event which was very important for our entire Church: reconciliation with Christians who opposed establishment of official communities and who severed communication with other brothers in Christ after passing of governmental law on state registration of church communities on October 17th, 1906. At that time some Ancient Orthodox Christians put such registration to doubt considering that the state would overtake management of church communities by such registration. Although, the law did not envisage anything like that in any way, on November 30th, 1909, its opponents summoned their own Congress where they officially declared severance of communication with all registered communities.

Opponents of official registration of communities were comparatively few and they were supported by just two priests: Sergiy Ilyakhinskiy and Pavel Knyazevskiy. However, all the treasures of the world are not worth a soul of any one person (Luke 9, 25), thus, the All-Russian Brotherhood Council for many years searched for a possibility for reconciliation so that no brother would perish staying in schism. The IV All-Russian Congress held in 1912, on behalf of the entire Ancient Orthodox Church, ruled: "Opponents of official registration of communities shall be considered sons of the single Church, shall be accepted for common prayer, and opening of communities shall be the choice of every parish”. As for persons sowing discord the Church made a strict verdict on them: "Clergymen and laymen who summon meetings against communities, Congresses, and the Brotherhood Council and who bring discord into our Church shall be deemed the discordant”. Unfortunately, all these efforts turned out to be fruitless.

Change of the governmental order and provision of absolute freedom of religion by the Provisional Government affected opponents of official registration of communities in the most favourable way. On 14-15 May 1917, in the village of Frolovo44 of Don Army Region a Congress of opponents was held: "Bearing in mind collapse of the old power the Council in the village of Frolovo passed a resolution about the wish of reconciliation and applied to the Brotherhood Council with a reconciliation declaration”. At a meeting of the All-Russian Brotherhood Council held on 28-29 May the declaration of opponents was welcomed with great joy. A delegation of opponents of official registration of communities headed by their priest Ioannes Yastrebkov arrived to participate in the V All-Russian Congress. No participant of the Congress remained indifferent to this issue, many wished to speak on it and they were unanimous, all speeches "contained wish and acknowledgment of the necessity of reconciliation and termination of the discord alien to the Church of Christ”. "Elevated moods at the Congress,  wrote one of its participants in the "Brotherhood” journal, – ended in a moving and touching picture of reconciliation of those who did not oppose registration of communities and those who opposed it. Really, division into those who did not oppose registration of communities and those who opposed it was caused by mistrust to the old power. The power which was too omnipresent, alien, and hostile. Now, this power is gone. The source of all power in our Church and its construction is now the Church itself with its canons. The reason for discord is gone, so, the discord is no longer needed! Reconciliation was accomplished by common forgiveness with tears of rejoice”45.

All attendees made beginning bows in front of the icon of Nicholas the Wonderworker. The Congress chairman, Vasiliy Nikitich Salishev, read the beginning prayers "God, Holy Father, and Our Father”, troparion of Saint Nicholas and the hymn to the Mother of God. Then a prayer of common forgiveness was read followed by singing by all attendees of hymns: "The gifts of the Holy Spirit”, "Strengthen those who have hope for you” and "By establishing me on the rock of faith”. God, the Merciful, united brothers in the Single Church by the single Bowl in this manner! This unity was of special value bearing in mind the pending Bolshevik ungodly darkness in Russia.

The Russian synodic church and, in particular, its "united faith” part also was in for radical changes. Many of old ritualists had some hope that new ritualists would restore the canonical church construction at its local church council having chosen a patriarch and would repent their persecutions against Ancient Orthodox Christians which lasted for several centuries. In particular, the V All-Russian Council of Ancient Orthodox Christians put forward an opinion that the search for a bishop should not be continued as the entire new ritual church would cancel oaths of Moscow Councils of 1656 1667, would repent and unite with the Ancient Orthodox Church. But, as we have already said above, the synodic majority of the Congress directed by God Himself ruled to continue with all due diligence a search for a bishop for quick restoration of the three-rank hierarchy in the Ancient Orthodox Church in its completeness.

Further developments showed that such decisions were quite justified.

From 1918 to 1923 the Ancient Orthodox Church lived through all horrors of the Civil War, destruction, and communist terror. At this time all religious confessions suffered greatly from militant atheism regime. The formerly unshakable ruling church with patriarch Tikhon elected by the Council ceased to exist as a single body having fallen into several parts and numerous divisions. It seemed that the end of the time came as it so much resembled advent of antichrist, however, the most horrible 30-40s years of the XX century were still ahead.

According to the Divine Providence, during the time of the new economic policy when the atrocities of the "reds” and anarchic terror somewhat subsided, namely, on November 4th, 1923, in the city of Saratov in an Ancient Orthodox church named after Saint Martyr Dimitriy Solunskiy an event of the greatest importance for Ancient Orthodox Christians occurred. An arch-priest of this church, priest Nicholas Tikhomirov, by anointment, accepted archbishop of Saratov Nicholas (Pozdnev) who was formerly under renovated ritual supreme church management to the Church of Christ. Bishop Nicholas was ordained as a bishop in 1921 before the new ritual church was divided into the renovated part and the old church part. Thus, long, difficult, and sorrowful search of a bishop who would be of like-minded to Ancient Orthodox Christians brought fruit with God’s help. And on December 19th, 1923, the Council of Ancient Orthodox Christians from communities of the Volga Region and Central Russia was held which upon consideration of documents confirming Bishop Nicholas’ correct baptism and ordination ruled to find his joining canonically immaculate and decreed to name him ever after as "Bishop of Moscow, Saratov and entire Russia of all Ancient Orthodox Christians”.

In his speech Bishop Nicholas said as follows: "I have been moved to the bottom of my heart with your sincere welcome words and I also sincerely welcome all old ritualists who attend this Congress personally and as delegates and I consider it to be my duty to state here my background to make it clear for you that during my entire life I have searched for just one thing – to find the truth and finally I have found it only in our Lord, Jesus Christ, and in His Gospel teaching as well as in writings and traditions of Holy Apostles, such truth is kept integral and pure only in the single Apostolic Church established by Christ Himself, and now this Divine Truth is kept only by the Old Ritual Church, that is why, by the end of my life, I decided to join you, old ritualists. In conclusion, I wish that the old ritual church shall keep this treasure as it has kept it before, in its purity and integrity, and that old ritualists shall help me in doing so while I shall try to help them to keep this Divine Truth in purity and integrity and I call upon all old ritualists to pray studiously to Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen”.

Soon after this event, the Ancient Orthodox Council which was held in Moscow on 25-30 May 1924 ceremoniously stated that the earthly Ancient Orthodox Church was no longer a "widow church” but regained its entire hierarchic completeness. Before this Council was held, a commission specially convened by the Council had meticulously studied canonical correctness of acceptance of Bishop Nicholas and considered literally all moments of his life. Various testimonies, including even rumours and gossips, were considered. As a result of this study the Council came to the following unanimous conclusion: "henceforth consider the three-rank hierarchy in our Church regained with observation of all patristic canons. The Council in the brother-like and Christian manner calls upon all old ritualists of other communities as well as followers of other religions to stop their false thinking and join our Ancient Orthodox Church”46.

It is impossible to describe the joy of this event! A long and difficult search of a bishop who would be like-minded to Ancient Orthodox Christians, with God’s help, was finally successful. After many decades of sorrow of "church widowhood” the bishop rank in the Ancient Orthodox Church was finally regained.

The words of Prophet Isaiah came true – the widowhood of the Church of Christ was gone: "Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour... Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood, for your Maker is your husband... "For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you," says the LORD your Redeemer” (Isaiah, chapter 54).

Other prophecy also came true: "Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” says the Lord. "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you” (Isaiah 49).

According to God’s will, the Church of Christ made desolate by Russian Bishop Nikon was again decorated with its original beauty by another Russian Bishop, Nicholas. Thus, the Church was rewarded by those who made it desolate – Russian bishops.

The words of Saint Hippolytus of Rome confirm that we rightly understand this prophecy of Isaiah as being referred not to Jews but to the Church of Christ: "Daughter Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a city under siege. Beloved, you see the vision of the prophet who foretold about this time many generations ago. This prophesy is not about Jews, not about the city of Zion, but about the Holy Church, for Zion is the Church, that is, the bride brought from heathen people according to the testimony of prophets”47.

Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, also referred the prophecy of Isaiah to the Church of Christ: «Isaiah prophesied much more than the rest about Christ and the Church, that is, about the King and that city which he founded; so that some say he should be called an evangelist rather than a prophet.... But let us now hear what follows about the Church. He says, «Rejoice, O barren, you that barest not; break forth and cry, you that did not travail with child: for many more are the children of the desolate than of her that has an husband, says the Lord. Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband - the Lord Almighty is his name - the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. He is called the God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54, 1-5), etc. But these must suffice; and some things in them ought to be expounded; yet I think those parts sufficient which are so plain that even enemies must be compelled against their will to understand them”48.

Such events were not gone unnoticed by Christians of various divisions. If, for example,  some people of the same faith, "chapel” Christians, "luzhki” priest-free Christians gladly joined the Church, some of other brothers – Belaya Krynitsa Christians and "deacon” Christians - in all possible ways tried to malign both Bishop Nicholas and the entire Ancient Orthodox Church.

They resorted to the dirtiest methods trying to blemish in any possible way Ancient Orthodox Christians for restoration of the three-rank hierarchy in the Ancient Orthodox Church for this would mean for opponents of the Ancient Orthodoxy an end of their own ambitions.

If the true reasons for discord actions of "deacon’ M.I. Chukhontsev are unknown, the causes of persecution of Bishop Nicholas all over Russia by Meletiy (Kartushin), bishop of Belaya Krynitsa hierarchy, are stated in this story: "In 1924 we, 3 Cossacks, were in Moscow and went to the All-Russian Congress which was summoned on May 24thto consider documents of Bishop Nicholas Pozdnev and to acknowledge his lawful capacities, we had arrived three days before the beginning of the Congress and we had no business to do, so we found our priest Meletiy Kartushin from our village. He accepted us, his fellow villagers, he asked us to accept from him a delegation to the council for joint discussion of the issue of our separation and he told us that if your Council failed to accept our delegation and rejected it we would declare a war with you and would fight you without any mercy!But the Council rejected this delegation... and after this collision Bishop Meletiy was offended and started to collect weapons for the war, by any possible means with the only purpose – to blemish Bishop Nicholas and priests he ordained looking for assistance of various "Chukhontsev deacon” people and "Seraphim” people only to blemish Bishop Nicholas. Bishop Meletiy did not care about the trustworthiness of such people, he just wanted to take a pan of dirt from them and pour it on the head of Bishop Nicholas”49.

But even within the Church there was a man who by his lack of mind almost put the church peace and unity to jeopardy. The church discord could have been caused by archimandrite Clement (Logvinov) who earlier made a great input in the case of restoration of the three-rank hierarchy. In 1925, in Ashkhabad, without council consideration and blessing, archimandrite Clement, with numerous canonical violations, "accepted” two bishops from the new ritual church: Andrei (Ukhtomskiy) and Rufin (Brekhov). Having ordained by them in such an unlawful way he dared to come to the Ancient Orthodox Church Council in such a capacity. Such unauthorised act of archimandrite Clement was condemned by the Council and when the hope for his repentance was gone a decision was made "not to consider Clement as a member of our Church”. Being justly rejected by the Ancient Orthodox Council Clement went to Moscow to Rogozhskoye cemetery where was ordained by the third rank by Belaya Krynitsa bishop Meletiy (Kartushin) into the Belaya Krynitsa community on October 31st, 1925. But he did not stay there for a long time. In late 1927 he left the Belaya Krynitsa community and set up his own "Clement” community, followers of this community named themselves "truly Orthodox Catacomb Christians”. Having learnt about it Belaya Krynitsa bishop Meletiy wrote with bitterness: "While being with us Bishop Clement did nothing worthy of praise. Despite the fact that at that time we had 4 "widow” archdioceses, he had to stay without an office as no archdiocese wanted to accept him as a bishop. For some time he was a head of Irkutsk-Amur archdiocese and he did all he could to remain the head of this archdiocese. But the archdiocese failed to accept him. Since he was not quite intelligent, he had neither persistence nor truly strong faith, he tried to get into a group of Bishop Andrei Ukhtomskiy, but, evidently, he failed there, too. Then he joined a small group of "run-away priest” people where he is now a subject to mockery... Once a man goes astray and becomes indecent, he is ready to do and accept anything”.50 Having separated himself from everybody Clement set up his own hierarchy which was a strange mixture of old ritual and new ritual traditions. But God did not welcome this unlawful hierarchy; it disappeared just several decades after its establishment as "bad fruit”.

Despite all efforts of malevolent people, through God’s blessing, the Ancient Orthodox Church made itself stronger insofar as it was possible in 1920s during the rule of godless people.

The issue of bishop ordinations was still critical as Bishop Nicholas was the only Ancient Orthodox Christian bishop at that time. Nevertheless, striving to observe Ancient Orthodox canons at their council Christians decided to postpone the issue of one-person bishop ordination and ruled to do their best to find the second bishop like-minded to Ancient Orthodox Christians. Efforts of a specially convened commission brought some fruit, but, unfortunately, new ritual bishops accepted to the Church, Philipp (Gumilevskiy) on December 26th, 1924, and Antonius (Milovidov) on April 26th, 1926, turned to be inconsistent and capricious people. Thank God that He freed our Christians from such regretful pastors! They went back after some time with the Ancient Orthodox Church.

In 1927, during the Holy Week, an important event occurred in the Ancient Orthodox Church: in Moscow, in the Nicholas Church, Bishop Nicholas assisted by Ancient Orthodox clergymen made Holy Oil for the first time in two and a half centuries. This event was ceremoniously announced at the 1928 Council.

We ought to make some more special notes about the 1928 Council. This Council was a remarkable event because it was attended by a new ritual bishop of Tula, Juvenal (Maslovskiy), as an official representative of synodic Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodskiy). The purpose of this visit was quite unusual: on behalf of the new ritual church Bishop Juvenal visited our Council to offer church unification through condemnation by new ritualists of Patriarch Nikon and heresies brought by him into the Church.

According to recollections of witnesses, His Eminence Macarius (Kuznetsov), Bishop of Novozybki, and David Ivanovich Klimov, on behalf of the Council, archimandrite Pansophius (Ivliyev) asked Bishop Juvenal about the attitude of Juvenal and the new ritual church on the whole to the Ancient Orthodox Church. Juvenal replied that everything in the Ancient Orthodox Church was just and correct and that no canonical rules were violated. He liked everything. So, a reasonable question was put forward: what impedes your joining to the Ancient Orthodox Church? Juvenal answered that he had been specifically authorised by his synod to discuss with Ancient Orthodox Christians the issue of acceptance of ranks of new ritual bishops who were not baptised by pouring in the current rank through condemnation of heresies. On behalf of new ritualists he offered a rite of acceptance specially made by Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodskiy) which, in particular, said: "We promise to keep these ancient rites with holiness and integrity, we also decisively defy those who defame them and proclaim that those who say that the sing of the cross made with two folded fingers for the sign of the cross and blessing, three-part eight-pointed Holy Cross, the tradition to say twice Halleluiah adding "Glory to You, God”, and other ancient church rites and traditions were borrowed from various heresies may them be anathematised and cursed”.

Later this issue was debated at length at the Council which resulted in the following unanimous council resolution: "in accordance with the 8th canon of the 1st Ecumenical Council to accept Bishops from Nikonian church by the 2nd rite until the condemnation endorsed at the Nikonian Councils of 1666 and 1667 is removed from us, old ritualists”. Further discussion of this issue was postponed for a year.

We ought to do justice to new ritualists; they really tried to fulfil the resolution of our Council of 1928 by the said date. On 23 (10) April 1929 a synod of the new ritual church was held which discussed the issue of cancellation of condemnations imposed on Ancient Orthodox traditions. On this matter Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodskiy) spoke to the synod and suggested the following: "Nowadays,during the time of internal changes within old ritualists and changing attitude of old ritualists to the Orthodox Church, the necessity of cancellation of the Council oaths is ever more evident and urgent. To expect summoning of a new Local Council is equal to refusal to solve this issue. The only solution is to pass such resolution by the Synod and invite our other Bishops to join the Synodic resolution by way of written statements (in accordance with Canon 4 of the 1st Ecumenical Council)”. Finally, the synod passed a resolution to acknowledge condemnations of Moscow Councils of 1666 and 1667 as "invalid”. Also, all condemning statements relating to the Ancient Orthodox Church rites and traditions spoken or written during the century of schism by many advocates of Nikonian reforms were cancelled. While the very canons and traditions of the Ancient Church were proclaimed as salvific.

It seemed that this good beginning would have some good continuation but another development of events was more acceptable to God at that time.

In September 1929, by the grace of God, an event about which our ancestors had prayed for many decades occurred. The tree-rank hierarchy was finally restored in the Ancient Orthodox Church: a second bishop was found and bishop ordination was performed for the first time during the last two and a half centuries.

On 16 (3) September, in Moscow Cathedral Church, Bishop Nicholas assisted by archimandrite Pansophius (Ivliyev) accepted to the Ancient Orthodox Church by ointment Bishop Irginskiy, Stephan (Rastorguyev). Bishop Stephan, who was born and baptised by old ritual community which admitted hierarchic jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, was ordained in the city of Satki on 4 (17) July 1928 by acting head of Ufa new ritual archdiocese Veniamin (Troitskiy), Bishop of Birsk, and Rufin (Brekhov), Bishop of Satki. Acceptance of Bishop Stephan was attended by many clergymen and laymen.

On 18 (5) September, in Nikolskiy Cathedral Church of Moscow, Archbishop Nicholas assisted by Stephan, Bishop of Urals and Buguruslan, ordained the first after the church schism Ancient Orthodox Bishop Pansophius (Ivliyev) to a newly established archdiocese of Rostov and Kursk51.

Thereafter, the life of the Ancient Orthodox Church was no longer dependant on exceptional circumstances and again became a normal canonical one.

Yet, the days of joy soon changed into the days of sorrow. The time of new hardships came. Since late 1920s the Soviet Union started an active militant atheism campaign. All over the country the faithful people were persecuted, churches were closed, priests and bishops, active laymen were arrested. The devil started the battle against the Church literally in a month after the abovementioned events. On October 28th, 1929, Bolsheviks seized and robbed Moscow Cathedral Church which was a home for all important church events of the last years. But God is merciful, at historical Rogozhskoye cemetery Christians were allocated a church (known as the Chapel of Nicholas) which had belonged to Ancient Orthodox Christians until 1854 but which was seized and forcefully passed over to another faith.

Pressure was put on the faithful people all over the country but still it was short of open repressions, although, events developed in such direction.

In early 1930s the Ancient Orthodox Church had more bishops. Bishop Filaret (Kharlamov) was ordained to Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg) archdiocese. His ordination was performed by Bishop of Buguruslan and Urals Stephan assisted by Bishop of Rostov and Kursk Pansophius. In some time bishops Stephan and Filaret ordained Bishop of Volsk, Theodorus (Shashin), and Bishop of Gorodets, Pavel (Nosov).

On September 1st, 1934, Archbishop Nicholas died and was buried in Moscow at Rogozhskoye cemetery. Bishop Stephan became the Primate of the Ancient Orthodox Church.

In summer 1933 atheists arrested and put into prison Bishop Pansophius (Ivliyev). In spring 1935 Bishop Filaret shared the same fate. These priests never left the prison…

At the same time repressions became fiercer, atheists did not limit their actions to only exile and imprisonment; they tried to physically destroy Christ’s priests. Dozens of Ancient Orthodox priests were either shot or tortured to death in prisons. Almost all of our bishops obtained a crown of martyrdom. Thousands of laymen were killed by the godless regime for the Faith of Christ. But God did not allow full destruction of the earthly Church. Just as at the time of pagan persecutions the Church of Christ started to exist under cover.

In 1935, seeing that persecutions against the faithful ones picked up momentum, the Major Church Council took a decision to perform subsequent ordinations in secret from the godless authorities. The first such ordination was held on 23 June (6 July) 1936. At that day in the city of Gorodets of Nizhny Novgorod Region, in the church of Saint Prophet Elijah, Archbishop Stephan (Rastorguyev) assisted by Bishop of Gorodets, Pavel (Nosov), ordained archimandrite Mikhail (Kochetov) to Romanovo-Borisoglebsk archdiocese. Later on, in secret from the godless, Trifon (Epishev), Meletiy (Krasilnikov), Iliya (Morozov) and others were ordained. Such practice of ordination in secret from the state was used by the Ancient Orthodox Church until the fall of the Soviet power. For example, in 1948 Bishop of Novozybkovsk, Macarius (Kuznetsov), was ordained, and in 1962 Bishop of Kamyshin, Jona (Izyumov) and others.

In autumn 1937 Bolsheviks shot dead Archbishop Stephan and the burden of rule of the Ancient Orthodox Church was taken over by Bishop of Romanovo-Borisoglebsk Mikhail (Kochetov). In late May 1938 Bishop Mikhail was ordained as Archbishop by Bishop of Azov-Chernomosrk Trifon and Bishop of Grozny Macarius.

Archbishop Mikhail headed the Church at the time which was the most difficult for Christians. Practically all clergymen were under cover, real hunting started against Archbishop Mikhail. However, by God’s grace, the godless failed to arrest Archbishop Mikhail although they followed him for many years. "While Archbishop Mikhail lived in the Caucasus Region in the village of Nekrasovo 25 kilometres away from the city of Kizlyar, the village of Nekrasovo was populated with descendants from Turkey, old ritualists whose ancestors had run away to Turkey in the times of persecution during the rule of Peter the First; the Turkish government gave them Turkish citizenship and protection, they lived there until 1906 when Nicholas the Second passed a decree of religious freedom in Russia, then, these people moved from Turkey to Russia and settled in this village upon permission of the governor of the Caucasus, Count Vorontsov Dashkov. They settled in Dagestan near Kizlyar and lived there up to date. Archbishop Mikhail Kochetov was protected by people of the village of Nekrasovo”.

Without revealing himself to the secular authorities, just like Saint Eusebius of Samosata, Archbishop Mikhail, "took off his cassock, clad himself in soldier's garb” and travelled around the country in secret, from one community to another, executing his archbishop’s duties, confirming Christians in their faith, and ordaining Ancient Orthodox clergymen. The authorities could hardly notice this inconspicuous small harmless old man who, together with the Church of Christ, carried on his shoulders all the horrors of Stalinist persecutions.

People who knew Archbishop Mikhail in person remember him as a man with mercy and full of high Christian love. Although he lived in absolute poverty he always found a possibility to help orphans and the needy. The Archbishop gave away whatever he received as donations, food or clothes, to those people who, as he thought, were more in need. The ascetical endeavour of this remarkable archbishop was great, until his death Archbishop Mikhail wore iron chains on his body exhausted by fasts and life sorrows …

During the years of his rule Archbishop Mikhail performed numerous bishop, priest and deacon ordinations, doing his best to preserve the Ancient Orthodox priesthood depleted by the sword of persecutions and to maintain gracious ordination.

The Great Patriotic War began. Ancient Orthodox Christians, just as their ancestors in the old times, stood up to defend their Motherland given to them by God. At the same time, the Soviet regime under the pressure of external circumstances had to ease up somewhat its attitude to the religion. Once more churches started to open in the country, blatant persecution of clergymen stopped. But the horrible war had its harvest.

In 1943 the state policy towards the faithful people eased up more. Clergymen and laymen started to return from prisons and concentration camps where they found themselves for religious reasons.

And on April 6th, 1944, on the eve of the Annunciation, Archbishop Mikhail peacefully departed to God. The Archbishop was buried in a cemetery of Malinovskiy monastery where he received his religious education since he was 14 years old.

Bishop of Stalingrad (Tsaritsyn), Ioannes (Kalinin) became the Primate of the Church who was ordained as archbishop by Archbishop Mikhail who was under Bishop of Azov-Chernomosrk Trifon (Epishev) on 21 (8) September 1939 in Georgia, in the village of Ureki.

Safeguarded by God Himself Archbishop Ioannes together with his close people managed to save himself in the most horrible events of the defence of Stalingrad and fascist occupation. But even in such unbearable conditions he tried to perform his bishop’s duties. It is quite probable that Metropolitan Kyrill travelling around Russia desolated by Mongol invasion did not see the Church in such a dire and sombre situation as it was seen by Archbishop Ioannes. However, relying on God’s help the Archbishop did his best to restore the full-fledged clerical life. Relations between communities and priests destroyed by repressions and the war were restored, difficulties were overcome, worthy candidates were found for church services, even ordinations were performed, too.

Archbishop Ioannes was ordained as Archbishop of Moscow and entire Russia of Ancient Orthodox Christians in the city of Volsk on the festivity of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin on 14 (1) October 1944 by Bishop of Kuibyshev, Pavel (Timonin), and Bishop of Volsk, Paisius (Feoktistov).

As we have already said before, at that time the Church was in a dire situation, many clergymen and laymen died during the years of repression and the war. Also, new problems appeared: two priests, Ioannes Sudakov from Moscow and Theodorus Arkhangelskiy of Novozybkosk, carried away by the spirit of wilfulness, did not want to subordinate themselves to the appropriate canonical order and brought turmoil in the life of the Church.

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