We’ve looked at the origins of Russia’s national, earthly origins. To the common Earth beneath her, both north and south. Now it is time to look more closely at her spiritual origins. To the common Sky above her. For this is the root of the festering problem in the East. Its resolution will come down to this: who owns the right to command the spiritual allegiance of all the Eastern Slavs? Who will inherit the religious birthright of Vladimir the Great? Will it be Moscow, or will it be Kiev? Because this is not just a battle for the Earth of Slavdom. Ultimately, it is a crusade for all the Skies above it.
A Crusade, if you’ll recall, cannot be proclaimed by anyone but a Pope. Who is it that will be able to spiritually unite the people of the East and mold them into a truly unified Slavdom? A Slavic Empire that re-unites the Three Russias so that they may go on an Orthodox Crusade to resist the evils of the besotted West? Who can do it without first being the Orthodox Pope of the East?
An Eastern Pope? Outrageous! How can I even envision this? To get there, we must examine the roots of the common spirituality of the Eastern Slavic world. That is where the battle currently rages. Only one Sky can prevail above All the Russias before a would-be Eastern Emperor can safely advance upon the Empire of the West. The visible battle to command that Sky has begun.
How do we get a Pope of The East? Let’s begin by stating what should be obvious. Orthodoxy is not monolithic. It is and always has been just the opposite. It had to be so, because the heart of Eastern Orthodoxy is the rejection of Supra-national primacy. National primacy is fine with them. And it’s absolutely swell from the King’s perspective too.
In this kingdom, no nationalist Primate (a.k.a. Bishop) can appeal to a greater power above the King. By definition, in this religious paradigm, there is no one above the King. Thus, whenever the local Primate gets uppity, in the King’s opinion (which is the only opinion that counts), the solution is simple. Squash him. and replace him with someone who understands things a little better. Someone with some political sense.
That’s what Bardus Caesar did in 858, when Ignatius, the ‘little-o’ orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, said Bardus could not continue to live with his daughter-in-law. (Remember, at this point in time, there was zero conflict between Holy Rome and all her diocesan provinces, east or west). So Bardus, being a Caesar, promptly did what any good Pagan Caesar would do, he deposed Patriarch Ignatius and elevated a guy named Photius as the new Patriarch of Constantinople. In one week’s time, Photius went from being a layman to being the head of the Church in the Eastern Empire.
Before word of this switcheroo could reach Rome (for approval), Photius promptly delivered for Bardus Caesar. Not surprisingly, Photius went to the mattresses to keep his new ecclesial throne. How? Simple: he projected his own sins upon his adversary, the Pope. He said the Pope (who later sided with Patriarch Ignatius) was an apostate. And then Photius excommunicated the Pope. What cheek! What chutzpah! The ensuing ecclesial chaos freed Bardus from that pesky orthodox fellow named Ignatius. And from Ignatius’ pesky boss, Pope Nicholas I in Rome. Never mind the cost. Just do it.
This was the end of the ‘little-o’ orthodoxy of obedience in the East, and the beginning of the new ‘Big-O’ Orthodoxy of autocephaly. Self-thinking. I can still hear Photius now, in fact; “Forget that guy in Rome, folks, I’m a Patriarch too, and I have a mind of my own. I don’t need Roman direction to do what’s right. So, yes, Caesar, you may keep living with that slut, because, after all, who am I to judge? Right, your Majesty?” That’s some self-thinking, eh? He was his own man, that’s for sure.
The result of this little war was the Great Schism. The Photian Schism. The one that gave birth to Eastern Orthodoxy as a separate (and separated) being. It’s always the same story. Herod vs. St. John the Baptist. Bardus vs. St. Ignatius. Henry vs. St. Thomas More. The plot never changes. Only the costumes. And the sluts.
While this should all be obvious to anyone who has read anything, it isn’t obvious at all in this idiotic ‘modern’ world today. At least, not to modern Westerners. For a millennium, this issue of a fractured Orthodoxy has been moot because there has been no military or intellectual possibility of the East challenging the West. At least, not the West I knew. Ecclesially speaking, the East has been asleep for a thousand years. They fell back and took a nap. So why wake a sleeping dog? The West? It too is now sleeping. Or maybe it’s in a coma. Can’t tell yet.
Big O, Little Oh
Historically speaking, for most of fragmented Orthodoxy, that Rip Van Winkle millennium has been spent under the thumb of the Sultan, whoever he happened to be at any given moment. But the times, they are a’changing. We’re all becoming Woke, as they say now. What are we waking up to? To the obvious fact that there is no solidarity in Orthodoxy. None whatsoever. Why should there be? After all, they are all separate species.
By definition, there can be no community of being when each member is autonomous and autocephalous. How can there be actual unity? After all, there is no fully assembled Body of Christ east of Rome. There are only multiple severed limbs. Limbs of God, I suppose you could say. Individual, autonomous and autocephalous limbs. Separated flocks of Limbs. Each limb miraculously with its own brain. Whereas they all began their autonomous life by warring against Rome, they are now at war with each other. The war consists of this: who shall be the head of this dismembered body? This is what it has come down to. Some of the Orthodox are now posing like Rome.
The result today is that there are said to be, by the Orthodox themselves, fourteen ‘Local Churches‘ that make up the dismembered Body of Christ in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Fourteen separate hierarchical Churches that make up one supposed spiritual body. Each of them is, in theory, in full communion with the other thirteen. That theory is now a visible joke.
In a static world, the theoretical fullness of Orthodox communion could almost be possible. But the world is not still. For there is no rest for the wicked. The purpose of one head on a unified body is to centralize and unify the ability to analyze. To analyze illness, for example. One body with fourteen heads effectively means you could get fourteen different diagnosis when the body falls prey to illness. But the need for clarity demands one head, with one brain and one mouth.
It works the other way too. If the head is supposed to contemplate its own existence, that is, it’s source of health, then you can get fourteen different versions of reality. Fourteen versions of the vision of God. Fourteen ways to salvation. Fortunately, for the Eastern Orthodox, they have been saved from this fate by their faithful adherence to the ancient sacraments, doctrines and priesthood held by the Universal Church, which still recognizes the Christianity (and the unfortunate insubordination) of these fourteen Eastern Churches. For this I give thanks. For while we are still separated, we are still brothers. Oremus.
We are still left with the separation of schism. And the reality that there is not one Eastern body (with any head), but rather thirteen midgets and one relative giant each with his own head. Until now.
From Many, One
The logical political result of any resistance to a central ecclesial authority is that the Local Churches will come under the thumb of the local throne. These separate-but-equal Orthodox hierarchies have all fallen under the thumb of the Emperor or the Sultan. In the West, the story of Holy Rome has always been the struggle of the Pope to free himself from the power of Imperial Rome. Because the peoples of the West were usually under some form of the Imperial rule, the only hope for freedom any captive nation in the Empire had was in the universality of Holy Rome.
Only the Pope could hope to counter an Emperor, or would-be emperor. The nations of the East had no such champion. Until now. But he is not the people’s champion. No, the Eastern Pope is still Caesar’s man. But which Caesar? East or West? How can we understand this?
As always, anything Eastern is usually an inversion of the same concept in the West. For in the East, this new Eastern Papacy is leading people into the arms of the Emperor. But it is not into to the arms of the would-be Eastern Emperor (Vlad). No, this Eastern Pope is leading as many as he can into the arms of the Empire of the West. And that is the problem faced by all the Orthodox Primates and Patriarchs today. Their flocks as well. Why is this supposedly Godly man leading the peoples of the East into the decadent arms of the West?
Who is this would-be Eastern Pope? He is none other than Bartholomew I, the current Patriarch of Constantinople. The Ecumenical Patriarch, the titular head of the Greek Orthodox Church.
If things in the East are usually inverted, what is this Eastern Papacy? How will the Orthodox world go from accepting a Patriarch of Constantinople who was always known, for a millennium, as Primus inter pares (first among equals) to being Primus sine pares (first without equals)? Let me parse the ways for you.
At the time of the 1st Council of Constantinople in 381, the Archbishop of that Imperial city was elevated by the Universal Church (in Rome) to the rank of Patriarch. This was in recognition of the honor of being the Primatial See of the Eastern Emperor. It was actually more of an honor accorded to the Emperor than to the Archbishop-cum-Patriarch. Thus, the Archbishop joined the Patriarchs of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem in rank.
If you’re even passingly familiar with the New Testament, you’ll recognize these cities, and the glorious past associated with each. Being designated as a Patriarchal See was not a grant of some superior powers or righteousness. It was simply an honor accorded in recognition of a glorious past. But it guaranteed nothing of glory for the future. Just look at that list today and tell me if their warranty has expired. Yet these four ancient Patriarchies haven’t seemed to notice that their cathedrals are empty today. Their pockets too. Maybe that is a hint of what may be driving this new Popish behavior of Bart I.
When Photius accused the Latin Pope (the Patriarch of Rome) of apostasy, that logically meant (if you believed the charge of Latin apostasy) that Christendom consisted only and truly in those four ‘little-o’ orthodox Patriarchies, all in the Greek East. Over time, these four Eastern Patriarchal primates re-branded themselves as ‘Big-O’ Orthodoxy. Each one claiming to be a self-contained time-capsule of true Christian belief. They then promptly fell prey to the rise of Islam. Meanwhile, ‘apostate’ Rome successfully held the Sultan at bay. There should have been a message there, but they never got the memo in the East. The telegraph lines to Rome had been cut. By Photius.
Now these four major (Patriarchal) ‘Local Churches’ were originally large in geographical size. But they were all gradually nibbled away by the Islamic advance. In some Patriarchies the capital seat (See) fell before their hinterlands did. In others it was the opposite. In either case, the hinterlands were granted autonomy and/or autocephaly by their now-captive jurisdictional Primate. Each Patriarch did it as a means of preserving the Church in those areas still free of Islam. Or sometimes, the minor bishops in these same lands that were isolated and separated from their Patriarchal See simply declared their own autonomy (and logically, their autocephaly).
The net result, over this past millennium, has been the fragmentation of these four Orthodox (but enslaved) Patriarchies into thirteen ‘Local Churches’. For the most part, they are in nations that are still captive, in one way or another until this day, to a foreign power. Captive on their own patch of Earth, suffering under equally alien Skies.
There was one area of Orthodox jurisdiction that never fell to Islam. Orthodox Russia, in all her national forms (Great, Little and White). This geographic ground had eventually become the 14th Local Sky of Orthodoxy. For Russia too had been orphaned by the fall of its Mother Church at the hands of the victorious Sultan Mehmed II in Constantinople in 1453. But in fact, the Metropolitan (Archbishop) of Moscow had been for all practical purposes totally independent of Constantinople since before the Fall of Constantinople. They accomplished this feat by electing and ordaining their own man without recourse to the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1448.
The Russians did this because the current Patriarch of Constantinople (Joseph II) had agreed, at the urging of the Eastern Emperor (John VIII Palaeologus), to kiss and make-up with ‘apostate’ Rome, in hopes of securing western military help needed to resist the Islamic invaders.
Moscow refused to recognize this re-unification of the Greek East and Latin West agreed to at the Council of Florence. It was, in her eyes, blatantly political in nature. And thus, not spiritually binding upon them, and their nationalistic church. They kept their Earth and kept their Sky. And kept their distance from all.
The self-proclaimed autocephaly of this combined Kievan-Muscovite Local Church, coupled with the fall of the Eastern Empire in 1453, effectively severed the nearly 500-year mother-daughter relationship between the See of Constantinople and Slavdom. A relationship born at the baptism of Vladimir the Great in Kiev, in 988. And while Metropolitan Jonas lived in Moscow, his title was Metropolitan of Kiev. And All The Russias. This is the second root of today’s problem in Ukraine. It mirrors the first root, when the Norseman descendant, Vladimir, was baptized in Kievan Russia.
Eventually, this self-proclaimed autonomy and autocephaly of Russia was formally recognized in 1589 when the four Eastern Patriarchs (of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem) elevated the Metropolitan of Kiev/Moscow to the ranks of the Patriarchate. An elevation they had no authority to make, however, as it was Holy Rome (the first Patriarchate) that had originally bestowed this grant of grandeur on each of them. No matter, mate. We can do as we like. After all, we’re all autocephalous, right? Autonomous limbs, each with our own brain, da? Any good Prot will agree with that!
Why had these four Islamic captive Patriarchies made this grant of equal stature to Moscow in 1589 in the first place? Why had they made Muscovian Russia the 14th Local Church, carving it out from under Constantinople? Further, why did the Patriarch of Constantinople, Dionysius IV, issue his Tomos a hundred years later, in 1689, in which he further recognized that the Kievan Church was legally the same (and therefore under the jurisdiction) as the Moscovian Church under the Metropolitan of Moscow?
Why did Dionysius give away the collective farm? Why did he admit that Moscow was now independent of his own See of Constantinople? And why was this recognized by all the thirteen other Local Churches? All great questions. Especially if you want to know what is really happening today on the Maidan.