History of the Patriarchate

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On the centenary of the end of the Civil War in Russia

Augustine Sokolovski, doctor of theology, priest

Remembering the centenary of the end of the Civil War in Russia, let us turn to the topic of patriarchate in the Church. Let’s talk about how this ancient institution of church government was restored during the two Revolutions of 1917. Let us turn to its theological etymology. Let us also consider its implementation in the ancient churches of East and West. Thus, we will try to make our modest contribution to the remembrance of the most important and mournful events of a hundred years ago Russia.

In the period from August 15th (28th), 1917 to September 7th (20th), 1918, the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church was held. This event was the first ecclesiastical meeting of the Russian Church since the second half of the 17th century. Due to the special nature of church-state relations in the Russian Empire in the time preceding the February and October Revolution, the convocation of such a general Council was not possible.

It turns out that the very fact of convening such a meeting is closely connected with the February, and then the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Then the Church was separated from the state. Therefore, for a very short time, she was able to determine the rules of her own existence. The most important act of the Council is rightfully considered the restoration of the patriarchate. The institution of the Patriarchate was officially abolished in 1721, while the Church was governed collectively. It was headed by the Holy Synod, and formally the All-Russian Emperor himself.

On November 5 (18), 1917, according to the modern calendar, Metropolitan Tikhon (Belavin) was elected Patriarch; on November 21 (December 4), he was solemnly elevated to the patriarchal throne. This event marked then, for the Church and the State, the entry of Russia into the Civil War. The Patriarchate of Tikhon was short-lived.

For the very fact of his existence, Tikhon was persecuted by the Bolshevik authorities. He suffered a lot, was under house arrest, and died on April 7th, 1925 — on the Orthodox feast of the Annunciation – in the Donskoy Monastery in Moscow. In October 1989 he was canonized by the Russian Church as a confessor of the faith.

The centenary of the end of the Civil War in Russia is an important reason to remember not only Patriarch Tikhon, but also the last Patriarch Adrian of All Russia, whose successor St. Tikhon was.

In 1690, Metropolitan Adrian of Kazan was elected Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The election, according to our calendar, took place on August 24th (September 3rd). An outstanding hierarch of the last century, Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky (1863–1936), venerated Adrian as a saint. In his efforts to restore the patriarchate, Anthony prayerfully relied on Hadrian’s intercession before God in the saints.

Then, at the very beginning of the 20th century, the very idea that the patriarchate in the Russian Church would be restored very soon seemed impossible. Metropolitan Anthony believed that if this happened, it would truly be a miracle of God. Surprisingly, without the zealous labors and sermons of Anthony, the restoration of the patriarchate, perhaps, did not happen. It is important to remember that even at the Local Council of 1917–1918, some of its participants did not initially consider the restoration of the patriarchate in our Church to be necessary. But by the will of God, at the very beginning of the Civil War in Russia, the Patriarch stood at the head of the Russian Church.

Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow

Thus, by the fate of God, Patriarch Adrian, in the Holy Spirit, became involved in our recent church history. Adrian was the last patriarch of the first patriarchal period in the history of the Russian Church. His title is “Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and All Northern Countries”. In the parishes of the Russian Church in Scandinavia, it is used to this day. Obviously, this ancient title has not lost its relevance in anything.

Adrian passed away to the Lord in 1700. He was of a monastic spirit. He left behind a number of edifying works, as well as a small correspondence with Peter I. By the will of the Tsar, a successor to Adrian was not chosen. The Russian Church then entered the Synodal Period. For more than two centuries it has been managed collegially. It was formally headed by the Sovereign himself. Other Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs called the Holy Synod “beloved brother in Christ.”

When remembering the last Patriarch Adrian, it is very important for us to thank God for the patriarchate in our Church, and, of course, to understand the origin and essence of the patriarchal ministry itself. To thank God that the patriarchate in our Church was revived at the Local Council of 1917–1918.

It is important to remember that initially the primates, that is, the highest hierarchs of the Local Churches of antiquity, bore the title of archbishops, or simply bishops.

Such, for example, was the primate of the great Ancient Carthaginian Church of the Roman Africa, the martyr Cyprian (+258):

Are you, Cyprian, a bishop of the Christians? You will be beheaded by the sword,” said the governor.

– Thank God! – these were the last words of Cyprian of Carthage.

The Roman Empire at the turn of the 4th–5th centuries had about 50 million inhabitants. There were about 2,000 bishops in the Universal Church.

The Jews who did not accept the Lord Jesus continued to keep the Law of Moses and wait for a political liberator – the Messiah. The formal head of this people, or rather, the one with whom the Roman Authorities preferred to speak in case of disputes, conflicts and perplexities, was the Jewish patriarch, also called Nasi. This was true until 415–426, when the Christianized Roman Empire put an end to this Institute.

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (315–387) was the first hierarch to take the title of patriarch, as the head of the Local Church and the primate of Orthodox Christians. The diocese of the City of Jerusalem was then subordinate to the Archbishop of Caesarea of ​​Palestine. Such a special designation of the bishop of Jerusalem as a patriarch, thanks to St. Cyril, not only greatly confirmed the authority of this hierarch. In the future, after about a century, it greatly contributed to the recognition of Jerusalem, at the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon in 451, as a Local Church and Patriarchate.

At the same time, the main thing is that the Great Father of the Church, the author of the famous “Catechetical Letters”, Cyril, then prophetically testified that the true People of God is the Church, New Israel, Orthodox Christians. The Patriarch is the Father of the Believers. The Patriarch is an Intercessor – homo orans – a person who always prays. The Patriarch is the Defender of the Faithful from the mighty of this world. Then inspired by this example, the primates of other important local Orthodox Churches began to be called patriarchs.

Unlike the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchates—Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem – the Western Church, in which Rome traditionally held primacy, did not seek to consider the “patriarchate” as a permanent institution. And although the title “Patriarch of the West” was once bestowed on the popes of Rome, Rome itself did not attach much importance to this. In 2006, this title was abolished by Benedict XVI. Indeed, the role of “patriarchs”, that is, the true Fathers and Defenders of the People of God, the popes gave way to the saints. So, in the 5th century, the Bishop of the city of Tours in France, St. Martin (316–397), became the true “Patriarch of the West” for the whole of Europe.

By an amazing coincidence, his memory is celebrated by the Church on October 25th. That is, at the same time when we remember the centuries of the end of the Civil Confrontation in Russia.

By tradition, the hierarchs whom the Church canonized as saints are called “hierarchs.” Saint Martin of Tours was such a saint. In addition, in the person of St. Martin, we honor a repentant Roman soldier, an ascetic, a saint and a wonderworker. Thanks to his mercy to the poor, persecuted and persecuted, Martin entered the memory of the People of God with the name “Merciful”.

It was Martin who founded the first monastery on the territory of modern France, preached a lot in Gaul and beyond. There is an opinion that he became the first saint not a martyr, canonized in the Ancient Church in the West. Saint, whose image is comparable to Nicholas the Wonderworker, Martin was one of the most revered saints of Christian antiquity.

With the Christianization of Europe, and, in particular, of Germany, the veneration of St. Martin also spread. More and more temples were erected in honor of him. Therefore, the oldest temples of a particular region, are usually dedicated to this Saint Martin. Today, only in France, 237 settlements are named after Martin, about 3,600 churches are dedicated to him. Finally, the great reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546) was named after Martin of Tours.

Many customs, folk and social traditions are associated with the name of Martin. So, like St. George’s Day in Russia, servants could move to other masters on St. Martin’s day. The same day was the last day before the beginning of the Christmas fast, which once existed in the Christian West.

The origin of the word “chaplain” owes its origin to the veneration of Martin. This was originally the name of the priests who served at the “kappa” – the mantle of St. Martin kept in Paris. There is also a special pilgrimage route of the saint, which begins from the birthplace of the saint on the territory of modern Hungary. The pilgrimage passes through the places of his exploits, miracles and preaching, through Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Croatia and Poland, and ends in the city of Tours itself.

The veneration of Saint Martin is extremely great. Undoubtedly, he is one of the most revered saints in history. Moreover, this veneration extends not only to the entire Orthodox world, but to the entire Christianity. As a spontaneous reaction to such great fame of one of the saints, the question arises why some saints are revered more than others?

The answer to it is revealed in the biblical teaching, according to which, an immortal man, created in the image of God, who has attained the likeness of God in holiness, lives and continues to live forever. Even after death, he or she remains a living, thinking, loving person.

Therefore, many saints chose to praise God day and night. They preferred to get away from the veneration of people, and after the death of the body to maintain that humility that revived their souls in their bodily life on earth. As it says in the book of the Apocalypse: “These are those who came from the great tribulation; they washed their clothes and made their clothes white with the blood of the Lamb. For this they are now before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple, and He who sits on the throne will dwell in them” (Rev. 7:14–15). These saints, who loved the praise of God most of all, laid their hands on Saint Martin and entrusted him with intercession for the people. They preferred to remain in the unknown. Great saints, and, above all, saints, holy bishops, contemporaries of Martin himself.

In fact, a contemporary of the IV century, Martin was the interlocutor of Ambrose of Milan (340–397) and Paulinus of Nola (354–431), and many others who spoke and mentioned Martin in their works.

After his death, Saint Martin was not only given great veneration, but he also had to suffer. Thus, the relics of the saint were partially destroyed by the Protestant Huguenot iconoclasts in the 16th century, and the ancient church dedicated to him in Tours was destroyed during the French Revolution. Like the great saints and shrines of the Russian Church after 1917, Saint Martin and his veneration also came under attack from the revolutionaries of 1789 in France.

Martin of Tours

The saint’s memory has also suffered in modern times. So, because of secularization, that is, the processes of secularization of the state and society in the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a noticeable extinction of his veneration. Once one of the most revered saints, the True Patriarch of the West, at the turn of the second and third millennia, he suddenly became forgotten. As if, with the approach of the Second Coming of the Lord, in these last times of the world, Martin the Merciful in a special way propitiated God, asking Him to fall into oblivion from people, in order, according to the word of the Apostle Paul, to expect the Parousia of the Lord with all the saints in Heaven (cf. Phil. 3; 20–21). It turns out that if age is given to us in order to learn to say goodbye, then holiness is given by God in order to learn to hide (cf. Matt. 6:1–4).

The event of the Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent civil confrontation in Russia was a real shock for many. And yet, in the history of the world and the Church, there have been several such upheavals. All of them provide us with an important opportunity to reflect on the fate of the Universe.

So, Rome fell in 476. The leader of the barbarians, Odoacer, took the city and sent the royal regalia to Constantinople. At the same time, the Roman Empire did not cease to exist. After all, there was no formal division between East and West. However, the Great City of Rome, which dominated the world for centuries, has lost its political significance. A time of decline and marginalization had begun.

It is important for us to remember that in the history of Christianity there were two worldviews expressed by brilliant representatives of the Patristic Thought. It was they who predetermined the subsequent development of the civilizations of the East and West. They also became the cause of their contradictions and confrontations for subsequent times.

Thus, the father of church history, Eusebius of Caesarea (269–339), believed that the adoption of Christianity by Emperor Constantine was a blessing from above. Henceforth, according to Eusebius, Christianity and the empire were to go hand in hand. Orthodox Emperors, according to Eusebius, will protect and equip the Church until the end of time. Such a vision of the issue was expressed in detail by Eusebius in his famous “Praise to Constantine”.

Eusebius personally knew Constantine, was close to the court, and therefore formulated his worldview on this issue quite consciously. And although formally Eusebius was not completely Orthodox and cannot be considered one of the “Fathers of the Church”, his worldview became fundamental for the entire subsequent development of Eastern Orthodoxy.

In turn, St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430), one of the simple bishops in Carthaginian Roman Africa and, at the same time, the greatest of the Fathers of the Church, lived a century later than Eusebius and was extremely far from the imperial court. In 410, Augustine witnessed the first capture of Rome by the barbarians. He formulated his attitude to the question of the relationship between the Kingdom and the Priesthood in the colossal work “On the City of God”.

Augustine believed that the baptism of Constantine and the Christianization of the Empire were a blessing. However, he also believed that Constantine, who founded the city of his name, Constantinople, on the banks of the Bosphorus, is similar in this to the founder of the Earthly City, Cain. For the only true City is the City of God, and the homeland of a Christian is in Heaven.

Augustine called the Church and the City of God itself the Republic. Augustine considered states and empires to be transitory and warned the Church against excessive reliance on the powers of this world. This worldview formed the basis of the Western Christian worldview, with its constant confrontation between the power of the bishop and the secular rulers.

In the Kingdom of Christ and God, we will know the answer to the question which of the two great Teachers of the Ancient Church, Eusebius and Augustine, was right.

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