"Ecclesiological Perspectives of Orthodox Old Belief (Edinoverie)"

We offer to your attention the report of Mikhail Tyurenkov, head of the ideological department of the TV channel "Tsargrad", press secretary of the World Russian People's Council and a member of the Parish Assembly of the Moscow Uniate Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas in Studentsy at the seminar of the Center for Conservative Studies of the Faculty of Sociology of Lomonosov Moscow State University "Sociology of the Russian Schism", November 23, 2010 (never published before).


In this report I propose to examine the phenomenon of Orthodox Old Believers (Edinoverie) not in historical retrospect, but to try to reconstruct its idea, on the basis of which I will outline the only possible ecclesiological perspective.

To begin with, I would like to say that the methodology of reconstruction in this case is forced, primarily due to the fact that, despite the 210-year history of the existence of Old Believer parishes in the bosom of the post-reform Russian Church, the living Edinoverie tradition was practically cut off. That is why modern Orthodox Old Belief is being revived not so much on the basis of carefully preserved and transmitted from generation to generation knowledge, skills and abilities (although such things are found in a few modern Edinoverie parishes), but thanks to the complex of historical sources about Edinoverie superimposed on the relatively alive ("The patient is rather alive than dead!") tradition of other Old Believers. However, I consider the fact of forced reconstruction to be neutral, especially if we take into account that the "reconstructors" themselves are extremely careful about the tradition they are trying to recreate.

So, what is, in my understanding, the "ideal image of Edinoverie"? To begin with, I would like to point out that the perception of the Edinoverie as a certain folklore-ethnographic part of the Moscow Patriarchate, including among the Edinovertsy themselves, is fundamentally wrong. That is why personally I have always been skeptical of the zealots of the revival of Old Russian household costume. It is possible to dress up in the most archaic kosovorotka, yufta boots and eat exclusively by means of a souvenir musical wooden spoon, but at the same time know absolutely nothing about the Old Russian Orthodoxy.

But let us return directly to Edinoverie. Let me remind you that during the last third of the 17th - 18th centuries, people who remained faithful to the pre-reform Orthodox liturgical rites and books, but who did not consider it possible to break communion with the Church hierarchy, were subjected to exactly the same persecution as those Old Believers who broke communion with the dominant Church. Much has been said about the latter by the previous speakers, but I would like to mention the proto- and just Edinovertsy, who, according to my firm conviction, even in the years of persecution were an organic, core part of the Russian Church, which preserved its canonical structure in the church turmoil that began in the second half of the XVII century. In other words, Edinoverie is the pre-Raskol Russian Church, which never lost its unity, conciliarity and apostolic succession, its three-church hierarchy, but experienced a period of tragic errors of its clergy. A period that finally ended only in 1971 with the cathedral's recognition of the insane blasphemous anathemas imposed on the ancient liturgical orders, "as not having been" and "imposed by bad reasoning".

Moreover, Edinoverie is such regardless of the personal piety of this or that Edinoverets, as well as of its mass appeal, but in direct connection with the very idea of Edinverie, on the basis of which Orthodox Old Believers must exist in the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Before proceeding to reflections on the ecclesiological perspectives of Edinoverie, let me give a short quote from the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who, at the November 19, 2010 meeting of the Commission for Old Believer Parishes and for Cooperation with Old Believers, noted in particular:

"The old rite is not just a rite. The old rite can be called a standard for church life..."

I will not search for any hidden connotations of this statement, but will take it as it is: "You said, O holy Vladyka!"

So, "the standard of church life". And the standard, as we know, does not imply any other, alternative standards. That is, a liter without some nanoliter is, of course, a liter, but that liter, which is stored in some International Bureau of Weights and Measures, is still "literier". Therefore, there is absolutely no need for our fellow believers to look back at how our standard is perceived by those for whom even half a liter is a liter.

On the other hand, this does not mean that we, Edinovertsy, should treat those whose church-historical and canonical consciousness has changed so much that for them the "standard of church life" is, at best, only a temporary cross-section of the Old Russian folkloric-ethnographic version of universal Christianity, as outsiders. After all, a not quite correct understanding of what is actually Church orthodoxy is not necessarily heresy, meaningful adherence to which automatically places a person outside the Church.

In short, the ecclesiological position of Edinovertsy in the bosom of World Orthodoxy should ideally be the following: a non-proud awareness of their reference mission, while refusing to take the position of eternal fearful looking around: "What will Princess Marya Alexeevna say?". In principle, Edinovertsy should be relatively indifferent to what the New Riters or Old Believers of other denominations have to say about us. But we should care to whom we will answer about our trust and life after death. Just as we cannot ignore, "having kissed and put on the shelf", that precious Sacred Tradition of the Orthodox Church, which reached us by the beginning of the church turmoil of the XVII century in a practically intact form, and which during the last three and a half centuries has so often been tried to revise. And not only by the New Riters.

In conclusion, I will again quote the words of Metropolitan Hilarion, who, in turn, refers to the words of the patriarch:

"As His Holiness Patriarch Kirill noted earlier, several centuries ago an attempt was made to change the civilization code of our ancestors, to instill in them a different culture and different values. It ended in failure, and in many respects in tragedy. We had to lose a lot to realize now how important and useful it is to turn to our spiritual roots, to turn to the tradition that is preserved in our Church..."

And it is in the revival of that very Russian civilizational code, based on the holy Orthodox faith, for a start in the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church itself, that the main ecclesiological prospect of Edinoverie - an uncompromising ecclesiological orthodoxy, untainted by the senseless struggle with the purely mechanical manifestations of the modern world: passports, microchips and tax identification numbers - lies. Orthodoxy is measured not by the glory and riches that the church hierarchs gained from the princes of this world, but also not by the width of the supposedly salvific ditch or the depth of the cave, from which the Antichrist will get out anyway. The ecclesiastical standard is measured by the accuracy of adherence to the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. And either Edinoverie will be able to demonstrate this ideal to World Orthodoxy with meekness and reverence, or it will wither away just as other Old Believers' denominations are withering away today. And no administrative resources will help.

Tue, 01/30/2024 - 07:58
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