By Hieromonk Nikitas of Pantokratoros Monastery
We could liken the situation in Ukraine to the Parable of the Prodigal Son. When the son repentant returned home, his father welcomed him back with with all the honor to which he was entitled before. However, his older brother was so angry that he did not want to get home, nor could he understand his father’s greatness. Instead of rejoicing over his brother’s return…
Some claim that there was no repentance. However, the dissolution of the “ecclesiastical structures” indicates the exact opposite. But our brothers did not renounce the Orthodox faith and its doctrines. They requested autocephaly, which is related to administration issues. They had every right to request it from the Great Church of Christ. And they did so.
We could also liken the existing situation to the miracles of Jesus. The Pharisees witnessed the miracles but accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law. They clung to the provisions of the law. They could not understand the greatness of God. They could not understand that God was superior to the law. He was accused of being a demon, and He kept on saving and curing people. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
In a similar way, in the case of Ukraine, many millions of Orthodox people have returned to canonicality and some are looking for canons to overturn it. Looking back in history and canons, we see that everything has been done in accordance with the canons and the tradition of the Church. When striving to abolish and downplay the importance of the prerogatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch, we are trying to abolish and downplay the importance of the Church’s tradition.
It is true, indeed, that this autocephaly is not like the others. There is a substantial difference. This act is much more pleasing to God, since this autocephaly restores canonicality and so many millions of people now return to it. They also say that the autocephaly did not have the outcome the Ecumenical Patriarch wanted. But what other wish could he have other than the salvation of these millions of former schismatics? And Jesus Christ is looking at this. The salvation of the people. By any means. Any reactions are temporary and will abate because they are against the will of God.
– It is unfair for our brothers in Russia to accuse the Ecumenical Patriarchate of recognizing non-canonical ordinations at a time when they did the same with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 2007. They reestablished the fullness of communion (by signing the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate) for those who were regarded for almost a century as schismatics and accepted them for the sake of unity. The apostolic succession was not even mentioned. Searching for and sacrificing for unity are a truly God-pleasing work. The Church tidies things up for the salvation of people. This is how she works. Based on soteriology, not on legalism. This is the greatness of God.
– “The Mother Church is affectionate towards her children, even the ungrateful ones,” the Ecumenical Patriarch said. This is particularly true. The Mother Church of Constantinople is a real mother. If she acted like a stepmother, she could take revenge by breaking the communion or imposing sanctions. It wouldn’t be difficult at all. However, a mother must tolerate everything and wait patiently for her ungrateful children to correct their attitude. God will never bless the acts of revenge. You see other Sisters Churches severed full communion with each other. The Mother Church, however, is in full communion even with those who do not accept her. She rejects no one. Her hug is so big that everyone can fit.
The Mother Church also accepts the entire hierarchy under Metropolitan Onufriy. She did not ignore him, nor did she disregard him. On the contrary, she suggested that he become a candidate for the new Autocephalous Church. She respectfully accepted his choice to refuse, and recognized him as Metropolitan of Kiev of the Moscow Patriarchate. Anyone who wants to can go to the churches of his parishes. There are no corresponding prohibitions by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
– It is a fact that Ukraine’s Autocephaly is an accomplished ecclesiastical act. And slowly we all have to accept it. During our recent visit to Ukraine, we found that within a year, people have accepted the entity and existence of the new Autocephalous Church. It is part of their lives and their daily routines. It is also evidenced by the recently published polls.
His Beatitude Metropolitan Epifaniy is a man who is primarily concerned with the well-being and spiritual growth of his country’s faithful, the Education, the family, the youth, the army. He has no retaliatory purposes. He is not a fanatic, nor he fanaticize others. Many faithful of his Church are outraged by the mention of Patriarch Cyril of Russia in the Diptychs due to the long-standing war, but he tries to explain to them what unity in the Church is. What does “Love your enemies” mean. Let alone the rest Orthodox Christian brothers.
We have also learned, in fact, that Metropolitan Macarius Maletic was unjustly accused of being a self-ordained. All the documents of his ordination are in the Patriarchate. He patiently endured and still withstands this unfair slander, and that sanctifies him. Without ambition (he could easily claim many “rights” as head of the former schismatic Autocephalous Church of Ukraine), he works for the good of his flock and his country. He is gentle and mild-manners with complete obedience to the Primate of his Church.
We met Father Sergio, who was badly expelled from his fellow priests in the parish he belonged. When he refused to sign the paper they had drafted, for them to remain in the Church of Russia in Ukraine, he was expelled. Even his relatives persecuted him. All this because he wanted the autocephaly of the Church of his country. As soon as he came out of the temple he celebrated until then, without getting anything, he said, “Lord, I have nothing, but you now. Guide me”. That was his prayer. In a container just where Saint Vladimir baptized Ross, he began to serve with the blessing of His Beatitude Epifaniy of Kyiv. They issued a notice to the parish not to visit, nor to commune with the schismatic serving in the container. But the people who understand injustice and see the grace in his face do go to the container and attend his liturgy. Just to be by his side. These persecuted are the true confessors whose persecutions do not surface. They only hope in the mercy of the Lord. Unknown with much grace.
The Autocephalous Church of Ukraine is under the blessing of the Mother Church, which granted all Churches the Tomos of Autocephaly, and this fills with grace our Ukrainian Orthodox brothers, even though, as is usually the case, there are opposing opinions too. Time will show that “the things done in the Church cannot be altered.”