October 31, 2014

Met. Jonah’s Second Russian Interview — “The Orthodox Church is most firmly opposed to the spirit of the world”

In an interview posted on the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church (Patriarchia.ru) Metropolitan Jonah discussed the status of the autocephaly of the OCA and Constantinople’s denial of it, as well as offering some new ideas on the future of the OCA. The interview was conducted by journalist Yuri Pushcha.

Highlight:

Puscha: What outcomes do you expect from the forthcoming conference in Cyprus, during which, among other things, the unity of the American Church is to be discussed? Are you counting on the Orthodox Church in America getting a greater measure of understanding of her position by other Local Orthodox Churches?

+Jonah: The Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as some other Local Orthodox Churches do not recognize our autocephaly. And if they want to make any decisions affecting our life, this is only possible with our consent. Otherwise, it will be a great sin against us.

HT: Orthodox Christians for Accountability

The visit to the Russian Orthodox Church of His Beatitude, Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and New York ended on May 4th.  The Leader of the Orthodox Church in America gave an interview on the outcome of the visit to Patriarchia.ru

Metropolitan Jonah

Metropolitan Jonah

Puscha: Your Beatitude, your visit to the Russian Orthodox Church is coming to an end. How would you begin summing up the visit,  its essential outcome?

+Jonah: Most important, of course, is a personal contact with Patriarch Kyril and other representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. In addition, this visit fortified me with grace. I prayed before many sacred sites, visited many monasteries, venerated the relics of many saints.

Puscha: What topics were the primary subjects of discussion during your talks with His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill?

+Jonah: We discussed how to serve and continue to work together. During this discussion, we noted that among us there are no major problems, although some general difficulties in Orthodoxy world-wide do exist. It seems to me, however, that we are both of one mind.

Puscha: How would you rate the overall level of interaction between the American and the Russian Orthodox Church?

+Jonah: The American Orthodox Church is the former “daughter” of Russian Orthodox Church, who now is like our older sister.  We have no difficulties in our relations with her.  Here we are perceived as a fully canonical and autocephalous Church. This is logical because the Russian Orthodox Church and granted us autocephaly. I am received here on the same level as the Patriarch himself.  If we were not perceived as a fully independent and equal Church, then I would be received here as I am.

Puscha: Quite recently, the Orthodox Church in America found its new leader in your person. The resolution of which issues do you consider most urgent for the American Orthodoxy? And how does this tie-in to the new challenges now facing the Russian Church?

+Jonah: Our most important problem, such as the troubles associated with funding, can be said to be behind us. But the main objective, which is still before us, is preaching the Gospel in America; implementing our mission so that Orthodoxy would spread throughout the country; interacting with other churches in America.

Another important task – it is to start new monasteries in America. It is one to which we pay great attention. I would like to mention the desirability that our clerics participate in the church-wide postgraduate education program, which the Patriarch Kyrill assigned to Vladyka Hilarion, Archbishop of Volokalamsk, to establish.

Puscha: What outcomes do you expect from the forthcoming conference in Cyprus, during which, among other things, the unity of the American Church is to be discussed? Are you counting on the Orthodox Church in America getting a greater measure of understanding of her position by other Local Orthodox Churches?

+Jonah: The Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as some other Local Orthodox Churches do not recognize our autocephaly. And if they want to make any decisions affecting our life, this is only possible with our consent. Otherwise, it will be a great sin against us.

Puscha: Do you intend to take further steps towards a dialogue with the Patriarch of Constantinople on recognizing the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America?

+Jonah: Of course, I would like this very much. That is my position. But I also want to be honest with the Leader of the Constantinopolitan Church and under no circumstance wish to show any lack of respect towards him or to say anything against him. But the position of the Patriarch of Constantinople concerning us seems to me to be wrong. Patriarch Kyril and Bishop Hilarion provide us with constant support in this matter. It is a not a question concerning not only us but also the relationship of Moscow and the Constantinople Patriarchates. The Moscow Patriarchate granted us autocephaly. This very decision contested is the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Puscha: Your Beatitude, please tell our readers about the American Orthodox Church: What is the size of its flock, and what is its composition? What place does it occupy among the other Orthodox jurisdictions in America?

+Jonah: We have about 650 parishes and 25 monasteries. Our communicants number about 100,000 people. The baptized  — about one million. The Greek jurisdiction embraces about 125,000 active members and nearly 400 parishes. But their congregations are very large, much larger than ours. They also have more among the baptized — about two million people. The Antiochian Patriarchate has about 225 parishes and about 50,000 communicants.  The Serbian Orthodox Church has around 100-150 parishes, I do not know exactly.

About sixty percent of our flock are Americans who have accepted Orthodoxy. 30% are former Uniates, and about 10% – Russian emigres. We have so many Americans  because a significant portion of our flock consists of the residents of Alaska and Mexico, many of whom are Indians. We are not a Russian Orthodox church; we are a Local Orthodox Church, which accepts all and is open to all. Therefore, although a part of our flock consists of Russians, they do not constitute a majority within it. However, now we are now considering the issue of having the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church also take part in meetings of our Synod.

Puscha: Your Beatitude, the recent change of President of the United States and the economic crisis is likely to be accompanied by changes in the general life of the country, in the mindset of people.  How do such changes effect the Orthodox Church in America? What may the American Orthodox expect in the near future?

+Jonah: For all of us – both there and here – this time very difficult. We also survive on free-will offerings, but we do not have a system of sponsorship [underwriting], such as exist in Russia. Currently, as a result of the crisis,  our free-will offerings are off by about 20%. We have no special relationship with the U.S. government. Relations between church and state are entirely different in America.

Puscha: What does monasticism in general and the Valaam tradition in particular mean to you as bishop and Church Leader ? For an important part of your visit is a pilgrimage to the shrines of Moscow, the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, St. Petersburg and, of course, Valaam, to which much in your life is connected and for which you have done much. What are the general features of monastic ministry in American Orthodoxy?

+Jonah: The Valaam tradition, of course, is very, very important to us. In Valaam, I received my spiritual formation; I am conscious of this and try to pass the received tradition to others. When I founded a monastery in California, knowing Valaam’s tradition helped me. I was given very good advice by the monastery’s Hegumen, the current Bishop Pankratiy and by Elder Kyril (Pavlov). I was supported and strengthened by this. Now I want to start a new brotherhood in Eastern America. It will also be based on Valaam traditions. Vladyka Pankratiy said that we must look to our spiritual roots. In America, we must look to Russian traditions. In Russia, in turn, they look to Athonite spiritual traditions.

Puscha: Many people in the West came, and continue to come, to Orthodoxy via their familiarity with Russian literature, music, icons, theological thought. What role did Russian culture play in your life?

+Jonah: For me it was very important. My first meeting with Russian culture was by reading “The Brothers Karamazov”. Here I first became acquainted with Orthodoxy, but at the time I did not yet met any Orthodox persons.  I was also heavily influenced by the books of Vladimir Lossky, especially “The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church”. I started to read this book and realized that I needed to become Orthodox. I was 18 years old at the time. For me it was an intuition of truth.

Puscha: And how did you establish contact with the Orthodox Church in America?

+Jonah: I found the phone telephone number of a Russian church. It was a parish of the Church Abroad. I called and went there. I came to the church, looked, but did not understand a single word. I went to a Greek Orthodox church; was very well received there, but I was told: “Why you are here if you are not Greek”? And in the Serbian church, I said: “Why are you here if you are not a Serb?”.

Later I met a priest from the Moscow Patriarchate, a Mexican, a very good person. He was named Roman Merlos. He devoted a lot of time to me and helped me to accept the Orthodox faith. And I am very grateful to him.

Puscha: What primarily is lacking in other U.S. Christian denominations who decide to accept Orthodoxy?

+Jonah: Orthodoxy is the only branch of Christianity which preserved the apostolic heritage in its entirety. Roman Catholics also possess uninterrupted apostolic succession, that which in English is called integrity, but  liturgically they departed from it. But their faith is more or less right, although with additions (laughs). But Protestants have lost much and departed from very much. They are extremely secularized. Even the Roman Catholic Church in America has become secularized. Only the Orthodox Church is most firmly opposed to the spirit of this world.”

Read the full Russian text of this interview on the patriarchia.ru website.

Comments

  1. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Joe says:

    When asked about the future of the American Orthodox, an Elder on Mount Athos (May God reveal his Saint to the whole Church soon) foresaw:

    1) The efforts toward unity will succeed. A majority of the Orthodox in America will join together under one jurisdiction.

    2)The sense of joy and unity will be short lived however, because this American Orthodox body will throw itself wholeheartedly (building on its recent “success”)into ecumenistic efforts with the Protestants and Roman Catholics in the name of “love.” Perversely, the defining characteristic of this “love” will be hatred towards Orthodox Christians who do not share their desire for union with the heterodox.

    3) Horrified by these events, small groups believers of all backgrounds and ethnicities within this newly unified American Orthodox body will begin to peel off to join the small group of Orthodox who had held themselves away from the first union efforts, ironically forming a second Pan-Orthodox American body!

    4) The Elder described said of this group (I love this part): “They will be small, but strong and very bright.” (cf. the words of the Lord, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”)

    It is obvious that this church and not the one that Metropolitan Jonah envisions will be the one that will be “most firmly opposed to the spirit of the world.”

    I was reminded of this Elder’s prophecy when I read what Metropolitan Jonah said in the interview:

    “Roman Catholics also possess uninterrupted apostolic succession, that which in English is called integrity, but liturgically they departed from it. But their faith is more or less right, although with additions (laughs).”

    What should be the reaction among the American Orthodox to such words? Already we know that many American Orthodox wholeheartedly agree with the Metropolitan. We also know that many Orthodox are sick at heart upon hearing such words. Surely agreement or disagreement with Metropolitan Jonah’s words shows us a trace, the beginnings of the future line of demarcation between the two American Orthodox groups in the Elder’s prophecy.

    Lord, have mercy!

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    Andrew says:

    This was a good interview.

    I also think Met. Jonah is a wonderful leader, no matter what fictitious elders and slanders say.

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    cherokee steve says:

    It looks like we finally have a Met. in the USA trying to bring about unity. It looks like Met. Jonah might be the man to do it.

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    Eliot Ryan says:


    Perversely, the defining characteristic of this “love” will be hatred towards Orthodox Christians who do not share their desire for union with the heterodox.

    This can be the definition of ecumenism. Prophecy really works. There were (still are I believe) people of God who would tell their visitors: you are Name Surname, you did this and this and you came to me for this and that problem. By the Grace of God they know the causes of the problems, what needs to be done and what would happen otherwise. One such man was the hieromonk Arsenie Boca. Fr Arsenie said that ecumenism represents the falling of the Orthodox Church by the hand of her servants. I have no doubts about this!

    I would like to be in the “small, but strong and very bright” group for the Lord will be with them. I do not know where I’ll end up. We do not know which side +Jonah will be in the end.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Joe, if ecumenism is your bugbear (and it certainly is mine) then you’d do well to steer clear of your future overlords (and you know who I’m talking about: your precious “done deal between the MP and the EP” should enlighten you as to their identity). But I think I’m gonna go with Andrew on this one. “Fictitious” may be the right word.

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    Joseph says:

    Joe,

    It is not clear how carefully the Metropolitan was speaking when he talked about Rome’s orthodoxy. Casually speaking and using a certain measuring stick, Rome is more or less right with regard to its doctrines. They do have many problems, and if Metr. Jonah were to address the issue more carefully, I hope that he would explain some significant shortcomings in Latin theology. Compared to Gaia worshipping Episcopalians, though, Rome looks pretty solid — or at least “official” Romanism does.

    I think that it is dangerous to treat the words of our bishops like the press treats politicians that it does not like — imagining the secret subtext that gives them away as awful folks with horrid ideas. To use fancy jargon, we should not employ a hermeneutic of hostility toward our bishops.

    Granted, I have a dismal view of a few ecclesial leaders, but I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Metr. Jonah is new; let us not presuppose things about him from fear or pessimism.

    However, it would be nice if the OCA left the NCC. It’s a scandal that any Orthodox Church remains a party to such a group.

    Joseph

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    Joe says:

    Andrew, George,

    I thought you guys would be happy to hear that Orthodox Christians in America will join together in the future.

    Okay, there will be two American Orthodox groups…but isn’t that better than none at all?

    Anyway, why should anyone be surprised at that this Elder should say such things in the evil time in which we are living now?

    This not the first time that a Saint has exercised his prophetic gift to warn the Church about the possibility of apostasy within her ranks.

    For instance, read what was said during the time of the early, Early Church:

    St. John the Theologian (I John 2): “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

    I can imagine a future scenario when the two groups will point to the other as the ones who “went out from us.”

    May God grant his children discernment during this evil time!

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Joe, what makes you think that he was talking about +Jonah/OCA and not another, more modernist jurisdiction? Just curious. I guess you can’t be wrong because you’re Joe and the OCA is wretched. I’m willing to concede that I may be wrong, although I will say this for myself, I can spot ecumenism from a mile away. Enjoy being under the Phanar!

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Joseph, regarding the NCC, it is indeed a scandal that the OCA is still apart of it. I will continue to work that it remove itself from this noxious, anti-Christian body. I don’t know if we’ll succeed, but I’d venture a guess that the OCA has a greater chance of leaving them than the other jurisdictions. I do not say this with any glee in my heart however, as any Orthodox body belonging to it wounds the Body of Christ.

    A little humility is called for: of the three largest jurisdictions, only the AOCA has removed itself. (And they have long been considered the most liberal.)

  10. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Joe says:

    Modernism may lead to apostasy, but modernism is not going to be the mark of these apostate Orthodox of the future (hopefully not near future). Union with the heterodox will be the particular mark of the beast for these apostates.

    In his interview Metropolitan Jonah (speaking loosely according to the kindly Joseph noted) spoke words about the Roman Catholic Church that would be greeted with outrage by the “traditional” Orthodox in the Church, for example, the Fathers of Mount Athos (to whom I owe my very life and any hope I have of salvation).

    Where Metropolitan Jonah said:

    “Roman Catholics also possess uninterrupted apostolic succession, that which in English is called integrity, but liturgically they departed from it. But their faith is more or less right, although with additions (laughs).”

    The Fathers of Mount Athos have said:

    “We believe that our Holy Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, having the fullness of Grace and the Truth, and for this reason, an uninterrupted Apostolic Succession. On the contrary, the ‘churches’ and the ‘confessions’ of the West, having distorted the faith of the Gospel, the Apostles and the Fathers on many points, are deprived of the hallowing Grace, the true Sacraments and the Apostolic Succession…”

    See the difference?

    Some Orthodox would agree with Metropolitan Jonah and disagree with the Fathers of the Holy Mountain. Some would agree with the Fathers of the Holy Mountain and disagree with Metropolitan Jonah.

    I used the words of Metropolitan Jonah to illustrate the line of demarcation that will someday separate the two American Orthodox groups in America. I hope Andrew is right and Metropolitan Jonah was speaking loosely… and we can laugh haha, along with him.

    I grant your point that though the OCA is modernist, there are “more modernist” jurisdictions, but we must all ask ourselves where will modernism and more modernism lead us in the future?

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    George Michalopulos says:

    As much as I treasure the monastic witness found in Orthodoxy, whatever hope I have for salvation I owe to the Risen Lord, not to any man.

  12. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Joe says:

    “Many people speak of the value of monasticism and the Holy Mountain which has preserved so many treasures and works of art and architecture for so many centuries. Indeed, we can also acknowledge the offer of monasticism at this level. But we consider as its greatest offer the preservation of the Church’s therapeutic treatment. For, it is this which gives us hope and the possibility to find this therapeutic method when we need it. And when we reach total despair, hope is activated. We are grateful to the monastics and to the Holy Mountain, mainly for this reason. We are deeply indebted to these sanctified people, who protect the Orthodox tradition.

    “In Orthodox monasticism a perfect therapeutic treatment exists -consisting of purification, illumination and theosis…

    “It is observed nowadays as well that many people approach sanctified monks, who practise the therapeutic treatment of the Church, to ask them on matters of spiritual life. The people of our days feel that they must be healed of their passions. They live in the suffocating atmosphere of passions and want to be delivered from them. They are aware that a formal Church attendance is not enough. The appropriate method is also necessary. That is why monks are always the shepherds of the people in a indirect way, although they are not directly such. They do not substitute for the work of the shepherds, but they preserve and use the therapeutic treatment which has been lost in contemporary ecclesiastical life. Or, even if it is not lost, at least, it is replaced by a moral mode of life. However man’s soul, which yearns for real communion with God, does not find rest in anthropocentric systems and humanistic methods of therapy. It seeks something genuine and authentic. Monks therefore are the theologians of the Church in the sense which we developed in this conversation. They know God and can guide man unerringly to reach God. Furthermore they distinguish the uncreated from the created and thus they can guide in an Orthodox manner.”

    – Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    George Michalopulos:

    As much as I treasure the monastic witness found in Orthodoxy, whatever hope I have for salvation I owe to the Risen Lord, not to any man.

    JAMES 5:20 “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save him from death, and coverith a multitude of sins”

    We have powerful intercessors before God: the Theotokos and the Saints. The enemy of our soul hates them because the Salvation came into the world through the Theotokos and the Saints show us th way to the Kingdom. The teachings of the Saints give us the wisdom so that we can safely overcome the temptations. There is no salvation without temptation! The enemy of our soul lays many traps and without humility and wisdom on our side he may defeat us!
    The Risen Lord will not automatically be your intercessor before the Father. This is the mistake that the Protestants & all make and I believe it is a prideful attitude.

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    Stephen says:

    Does anyone know more about what +Jonah meant in reagrds to the post grad. ed. program?

    “I would like to mention the desirability that our clerics participate in the church-wide postgraduate education program, which the Patriarch Kyrill assigned to Vladyka Hilarion, Archbishop of Volokalamsk, to establish.”

    Thanks, Stephen

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    Isaac Crabtree says:

    Met. Jonah is not nor ever will be an ecumenist in the sense of compromising the faith with the heterodox. Even St. Philaret of Moscow (+1867) had high regard for the erring Latin church, even refusing to anathematize them since an ecumenical council had not yet done so, and St. Dmitri of Rostov even used Latin spiritual practices like meditation on the Five Wounds of Christ and the Rosary– not every saint expressed the opinions on gracelessness that St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain did, and it is painful to see various opinions about the state of those outside the boundaries of holy Orthodoxy dogmatized into some litmus test for “true Orthodoxy.” His Beatitude confesses the faith of the Ecumenical Councils and believes the Orthodox Church to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ. When did this become insufficient, and which athonite monk has the power to come up with a new standard? Let’s be hesitant to hurl anathemata on those that hold opinions different from our own.

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    Scott Pennington says:

    The remark about Rome was a bit awkward. They are heretical on any number of doctrines. St. Mark of Ephesus held so as did St. Gregory Palamas. That was long, long before they added and twisted many other doctrines.

    It would be much better if we did not reciprocate the “separated brethren” mentality. Really, I don’t see them as close as either the Continuing Anglican Churches or the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

    Again: Don’t try to convert Roman Catholicism, convert Roman Catholics.

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