Domes of Russian Orthodox church

The Inestimable Value of Orthodoxy

By Archpriest Nicholas Deputatov

an Orthodox Life staff translation

Edi­tors’ Intro­duc­tion: Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) wrote the fol­low­ing in 1976: “The true Ortho­dox the­olo­gians of our day are not, as a rule, to be found in Ortho­dox acad­e­mies, nor in pompous ‘the­o­log­i­cal con­fer­ences.’ They are to be sought in hum­bler places, and usu­al­ly they will not bear the name of ‘the­olo­gian’: They them­selves would not pre­sume to call their hand­ing down the Ortho­dox the­o­log­i­cal tra­di­tion any­thing more than ‘faith­ful­ness to the Holy Fathers’ – but it is just this faith­ful­ness and this humil­i­ty that mark them out as bear­ers of the authen­tic tra­di­tion of Ortho­doxy – qual­i­ties which are lack­ing in the most renowned ‘Ortho­dox the­olo­gians’ today. The Russ­ian Church has known many such authen­tic the­olo­gians in the past cen­tu­ry, even if in our time of spir­i­tu­al bar­ren­ness it would seem that they are dying out. One such bear­er of the Church’s tra­di­tion­al wis­dom is a priest who would be aston­ished to hear him­self called a ‘the­olo­gian’: Father Nicholas Dep­u­ta­tov of the St. Nicholas Cathe­dral in Bris­bane, Aus­tralia.”1
Fr. Seraphim was so impressed by the works of Fr. Nicholas that he labeled him a “liv­ing link with the Holy Fathers.” In 1975 the St Her­man of Alas­ka Broth­er­hood in Plati­na pub­lished Fr Nicholas’ book Богопознание (trans. The Aware­ness of God), which is made up of sev­en­ty-two short essays on spir­i­tu­al top­ics, in the orig­i­nal Russ­ian. Although Fr Seraphim him­self trans­lat­ed four chap­ters into Eng­lish, a full trans­la­tion has not yet appeared in Eng­lish. Here we offer the first of these sev­en­ty-two essays, first pub­lished in Russ­ian by the St Her­man of Alas­ka Broth­er­hood, and in Eng­lish in the pages of Ortho­dox Life (v. 62, No. 3. May-June 2011).

Apart from the his­tor­i­cal, dog­mat­ic, and moral val­ues giv­en us over the course of Orthodoxy’s two thou­sand year exis­tence, there is also the wit­ness clos­est to us of our holy faith’s ever­last­ing vital­i­ty and ines­timable val­ue. Ortho­doxy is not proven; it is shown. Have a look at the cen­tu­ry near­est to us.2 Where will you see such spir­i­tu­al pow­er as that which came from Opti­na, from Sarov, Valaam, the Glin­sk Her­mitage, from Kiev, Moscow, Kazan, Nov­gorod, New Athos, and oth­er places? Where will you find such peo­ple as Fr John of Kro­n­stadt, Fr George Kossov, Fr Alex­is Gne­vu­shev (who res­ur­rect­ed a child), Fr Alexan­der Bodanin from Volog­da, and oth­ers? Where are there ascetic bish­ops equal to Theo­phan the Recluse, Ignatius (Bri­an­chani­nov), Ambrose (Kli­ucharev), Michael (Grib­anovsky), to name a few? Then there are the grace-filled Elders, heirs of the great Pai­sius Velichkovsky: Leonid, Macar­ius, Antho­ny, Ambrose, Joseph, Ana­toly, Nec­tar­ius, and many oth­ers. We also had learned ascetics and the­olo­gians who revealed the depths of Holy Ortho­doxy by their vast knowl­edge and mar­tyric assid­u­ous­ness. This is an incon­tro­vert­ible wit­ness to Holy Ortho­doxy. Lat­er there is His Holi­ness, Patri­arch Tikhon, with his bold state­ment: “I bless the faith­ful ser­vants of the Lord Jesus Christ to suf­fer and die for Him.” And the faith­ful ser­vants, steady and firm as rocks, were led to the fir­ing squad! And hun­dreds of thou­sands of New Mar­tyrs! Their blood is the seed of Holy Ortho­doxy. Coura­geous and steady, they, like our pious ances­tors, gave their lives for the Ortho­dox faith. They exchanged all earth­ly glo­ry, and their pros­per­i­ty, and even the exis­tence of the gov­ern­ment for the “good pearl” of holy Ortho­doxy. “Above all, let Rus­sia retain her Ortho­doxy. If the light of truth giv­en to Rus­sia to shine forth dims and is extin­guished, if there is no Ortho­dox faith or if its puri­ty be threat­ened, then earth­ly goods are super­flu­ous, then let Rus­sia her­self per­ish. The King­dom of God and the eter­nal sal­va­tion of the soul are more pre­cious than any­thing for man, and for it he is ready to sac­ri­fice his pos­ses­sions, his fam­i­ly, and his father­land. He gives all this up, so as to acquire the for­mer… There­fore, if we know that Christ’s teach­ing in all its unadul­ter­at­ed puri­ty is pre­served in the Ortho­dox Church and, con­se­quent­ly, that in it is the source of true life and eter­nal sal­va­tion, then we must do every­thing on our part to belong only to this Church and, in case of need, we must sac­ri­fice every­thing we have only not to lose this mem­ber­ship. Our per­son­al earth­ly hap­pi­ness, our care for our fam­i­lies, our social or gov­ern­men­tal ser­vice – all of this comes after the faith and does not jus­ti­fy its neglect. We must sell all this in order to pur­chase the field with the hid­den trea­sure”3

“The Orthodox faith is the authentic soul of the Russian people, the source of its vital strength and power; if it loses this precious treasure, it loses all…”

His Beat­i­tude, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Antho­ny, a direct branch from the Moth­er Church of Rus­sia, which was held cap­tive by athe­ists, was appre­ci­at­ed even by Pope Pious XI, who said the fol­low­ing in a con­ver­sa­tion with a bish­op in War­saw: “The great­est man in the East­ern con­fes­sion is Archi­man­drite Antho­ny Khrapovit­sky.” He [Met­ro­pol­i­tan Antho­ny] inscribed the fol­low­ing words as if on gran­ite: “For the sake of Ortho­doxy, one must when nec­es­sary sac­ri­fice one’s nation­al­i­ty, and one’s home, and mon­ey, and par­ents, and wife, and throw it all away like a worth­less rag, like two cents, if only to find the pearl of sal­va­tion hid­den in Ortho­doxy.”4

“The Ortho­dox faith is the authen­tic soul of the Russ­ian peo­ple, the source of its vital strength and pow­er; if it los­es this pre­cious trea­sure, it los­es all…”5 “Rus­sia lived by and was exalt­ed by Ortho­doxy, and by it will it be reborn and saved… Apos­tates from Ortho­doxy, how­ev­er, cease to be Russ­ian; they are trai­tors to the faith, the nation, and the Home­land.”6 “While pun­ish­ing, the Lord simul­ta­ne­ous­ly shows the Russ­ian peo­ple the path to sal­va­tion, mak­ing it a preach­er of Ortho­doxy in the entire oik­oumene. The Russ­ian dias­po­ra has acquaint­ed all the ends of the earth with Ortho­doxy, for the mass of Russ­ian refugees are, to a sig­nif­i­cant degree, uncon­scious preach­ers of Ortho­doxy.”7 More­over: “The Lord gave us the grace to pre­serve the puri­ty of His true faith, and we bear this trea­sure every­where for the sal­va­tion of the world.”8

“Beloved Protestant brethren!” – Overbeck appealed to his coreligionists – “look at the Church that the Holy Spirit founded and that He will guide until the end of the ages… Turn your gaze to the East – light comes from the East! … This Church is always, as before, unchanging in the Orthodox faith.”

Our mar­velous man of right­eous­ness, Fr John Sergiev9, sings end­less hymns to Ortho­doxy. He is in love with its won­drous, life-giv­ing, divine nature: “This price­less trea­sure, giv­en us by God…” He pleads with us to val­ue Ortho­doxy and to live worthi­ly, in order to glo­ri­fy God. He wit­ness­es to its supe­ri­or­i­ty over oth­er con­fes­sions. He him­self lov­ing­ly and gra­cious­ly received every­one: Roman Catholics, and Protes­tants, and Jews, and Mus­lims, and pagans, and at their request he per­formed mirac­u­lous heal­ings over them all – but all the while he con­stant­ly taught that the sav­ing truth is only in Ortho­doxy. “Where are there such prayers, glo­ri­fi­ca­tions, thanks­giv­ings, and sup­pli­ca­tions, such won­drous divine ser­vices, as in the Ortho­dox Church? Nowhere!”10

It is for good rea­son that schol­ars give such rap­tur­ous appre­ci­a­tions of Ortho­doxy: the Eng­lish­man Neale and the Amer­i­cans Aber­crom­bie, Pro­fes­sor Over­beck, and Dr Stan­ley. The first wrote: “The East­ern, i.e., Ortho­dox Church today remains what it was from its very begin­ning: man­i­fold in its insti­tu­tions and sim­ple in its faith, incom­pre­hen­si­ble to the alien and well under­stood by its sons, wide­spread in its branch­es and harsh­ly pressed by its ene­mies – but calm, and always, as it nor­mal­ly calls itself, one, holy, catholic, and apos­tolic. Such it is in real­i­ty!” “The more we study the his­to­ry of the Ortho­dox Church,” writes Aber­crom­bie, “the more close­ly acquaint­ed we become with its teach­ing and insti­tu­tions, the loud­er the voice of its author­i­ty sounds, and the more vivid our desire to enter into com­mu­nion with it is awak­ened… The Ortho­dox Church is faith­ful to the orig­i­nal teach­ing of the Church of Christ and is for­eign to the arti­fi­cial­ly con­struct­ed dog­mas of the Ref­or­ma­tion; and the Roman Church itself was but a colony of Greek Chris­tians…” “Beloved Protes­tant brethren!” – Over­beck appealed to his core­li­gion­ists – “look at the Church that the Holy Spir­it found­ed and that He will guide until the end of the ages… Turn your gaze to the East – light comes from the East! … This Church is always, as before, unchang­ing in the Ortho­dox faith.”

Dr. Stan­ley: “Ortho­doxy is more inte­gral and com­plete than any oth­er Chris­t­ian Church, and it car­ries us back to the first cen­turies of Chris­tian­i­ty…; name­ly, one should expect faith­ful ser­vants from her by whom she, by the Almighty’s will, will glo­ri­fy the Lord and bring hap­pi­ness to mankind.”

How many more recent con­fir­ma­tions and appre­ci­a­tions of the beau­ty and ines­timable val­ue of Ortho­doxy are there in for­eign lit­er­a­ture? How­ev­er, let us put this aside… Con­cise­ness and brevi­ty are need­ed. The con­clu­sion sug­gests itself. All orig­i­na­tors of new doc­trines and all teach­ers sep­a­rat­ed from Ortho­doxy, though hum­ble in their per­son­al appear­ance, have their ser­vice found­ed on self-regard and pride. They wit­ness to them­selves, do their work about them­selves, and preach their word about them­selves. Ortho­doxy is not in the deeds of its hier­ar­chs and mem­bers, but in the suc­ces­sion of Truth, guard­ed from the begin­ning in its puri­ty and integri­ty: holy, blame­less, and divine.