Apology for western orthodoxy

Apology for western orthodoxy

Vladimir Lossky

In 1925, Eugraph Kovalevsky, the future Bishop Jean of Saint-Denis, founded with his brothers and some friends the ” Confraternity of Saint Photius,” the goal of which was to work toward the independence and the universality of orthodoxy.

Here is its Manifesto : ” We proclaim and we confess that the Orthodox Church is the one, true Church of Christ ;

that she is not only the Church of the East, but that she is the Church of all peoples of the earth, of the Orient, the West, the North and the South,; that every people, every nation has its rightful place in the Orthodox Church, her autocephalous canonical constitution, the safeguard of her customs, her rituals, and her liturgical language. United in the dogmas and in the canonical principles, the Churches bind together the people of the place…

…We confess the unity in diversity and liberty, in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy spirit. Amen.” In 1928, Vladimir Lossky became a member of the Confraternity, of which he was later named President. For several years, he was the friend and disciple of Kovalesky, who worked for the restoration of Western Orthodoxy. The two texts that follow are complementary; they show well the similar view of their authors, the intransigence in Orthodox dogmas, and the desire to hear the uplifting voice of the Christian West once again.


In 1937, Vladimir Lossky addresses to the members of the ” Commission for the business of the western ” orthodoxy. The Confraternity received mandate of the Metropolitan Eleuthère to elaborate a project of Constitution concerning the western parish administration.

Three elements very different from span and ecclesiastical significance last to meet in one moment given on a common point of activity, so that the western orthodoxy becomes a reality in the life of the church. These three elements were: the evangelical Catholic movement of Eminence Winnaert, the confraternity Saint Photius and, finally, the Patriarchie of Moscow: fermentation of the Christian western in quest of the true tradition of the church on the one hand, the thesis of the western orthodoxy proclaimed on the other hand by us and, as coronation, the deep understanding and the clairvoyance of the Béatissime Serge of Moscow, that lent to this intention of the western the ecclesiastical shapes and transformed our thesis in a real fact of life. If one made resort to the scholastic distinctions of the four fashions of causality, one could say that the western orthodoxy that has just been born had the movement of Eminence Winnaert for ” caused materialis “, the Confraternity Saint Photius for ” caused efficiens “, the Patriarchie of Moscow for ” caused formalis ” and, for ” caused finalis “, final and supreme reason, it has the divine Providence that unites and direct all other reasons in the créé.Je world will limit me especially to a fast exam of the two first reasons, because they are from the historian’s domain, while letting to the R.P. Kovalevsky the exam of that that touches the very principles of the western orthodoxy.

The first factor of the western orthodoxy, as we have just noted it, is the west even in quest of the fullness of life in the church. indeed, if he/it is true that the soul by his/her/its very nature is Christian, according to the speech assigned to Augustin saint, it is as truly as the natural state for every Christian soul is orthodoxy. If one wanted to retrace history, so to speak, of this orthodox fermentation in separated West, it would be necessary to go back up until the date sinister of 1054, to take the course of the history of the spiritual life of the west then until our days,; one would find then to every turn of history, in every country, the phenomena that would testify with more or less of evidence of this hidden life, of this vital impetus toward the fullness of the lost church or seriously damaged by the mistake of Rome.

Seven years ago, in January 1930, to a public meeting of the Confraternity, presided by S.E. the Metropolitan Euloge, that was again at this time Exarque of the Patriarchy of Moscow in West, I made a report on the research of orthodoxy in West and especially in France, through history. He/it would be impossible, at the moment, to come back from it to this too vast topic. But some general remarks impose themselves.

This orthodox fermentation in separated West, as her remained in the same limits drawn by the big schism of Rome, was always vowed to a tragic destiny, one-lane without exit. The intention first was always just: spiritual uneasiness feeling, research of life fullness in the church. But when this impetus toward the fullness opposed a group of Christian western in Rome, without bringing back them to the unit first of the church, with which the Patriarchy of Rome parted at one time of his/her/its history, a new separation occurred in West, a new partition of the church of Rome. Those that parted with Rome didn’t receive anything of the lost fullness: on the contrary, they became impoverished more, losing the last deposit of the truth kept again by the church of Rome. It was the tragedy of the Protestantism: looking for the true notion of the grace, the Protestant rose up against the church of Rome; they didn’t know how to form themselves the true teaching on the grace, because this teaching cannot be formed ” in abstracto “, it must be found in the experience of the church. In result, they disfigured the doctrine of the church Roman more and, while leaving his/her/its unit, lost the very notion of the church. Those that left the unit of Rome to find the unit primordial of the church were not numerous; these are individual cases. For example some Franciscans, partisans of the strict obedience to the precepts of François of foundation, not capable to accomplish the evangelical ideal of their fully Mr. in the church of Rome, found asylum in the heart of orthodoxy at the Greeks Calabrian, toward the end of the XIIIe century. Another example, more meaningful, the Hussiteses of Bohemia, that, while claiming the communion under the two species – the Chalice for the laymen longed for a Church that would not be only a clerical institution, superimposed to the people, but to a Church that would be clean to each of his/her/its members. Talks to enter in communion with the orthodox church took place; but the interior separations of the Hussiteses and the political interests that mingled themselves of it, cut short there; this tentative didn’t have in succession. To pass at the modern times, one can mention the old Catholic tentative that, toward the end of the last century, looked for a closeness with orthodoxy. But in the talks that took place, their attitude didn’t reveal the desire to recover the true evangelical tradition, kept by the church of Orient,; it was rather a proud attitude of people, himself believer only possessors of the truth, opposite Rome as well as opposite the orthodox Orient. They didn’t want to leave their home ” to enter in the orthodox unit; they preferred to become orthodox while remaining that that they were, while keeping the dogmatic teachings of the Roman church that separated it of orthodoxy, the teachings fought by the church during more of one thousand years. He/it is only too natural, that these talks with the old Catholics didn’t succeed to anything. The talks of the Anglicans with the Saint – Synod of Russia, in the beginning of the century, also remained, for the same reason, in the plan abstracts. He/it is to note that the present Primate of the Russian church, the Béatissime Serge, took part in these discussions, without suspecting maybe of the task that would be incumbent upon him,: to put the stone fundamental of the building of the western orthodoxy. He/it was inopportune, at the moment, to ask in West the question of the western orthodoxy. In the relatively steady and immobile life of the pre-war Europe this idea would have appeared an utopia. The war, the revolution and a world crisis, were necessary so that the things that coasted the paradox can become realities. The evangelical Catholic movement of Eminence Winnaerts and his/her/its collaborators is born in the post-war atmosphere, at the time of the big crisis of the modern universe. As several other contemporary currents, that prove an orthodox fermentation in West, this movement looked for the fullness of the Christ’s church. As so many others, he/it parted with the unit of Rome. But, contrary to the other, Eminence Winnaert wanted the true evangelical tradition and contrary to the old Catholics he looked especially, fairly for this tradition; contrary to the other, he/it didn’t want to create a sect, he/it wanted the catholicity, the universal tradition, outside of which there is not a church. Because he/it liked the church. This evangelical tradition, this catholicity, he/it recognized them in history: (Orthodoxy) achieves, in truth, the evangelical Catholic synthesis that we don’t have from then on to look for in artificial combinations, but that the very life of the church through ages elaborated. When we recognized this fact, the duty imposed itself to us to search for more and more intimate contacts with orthodoxy, then to enter in efficient communion with it “. (Eminence Winnaert, spiritual Unit, 1937).

Thus, the evangelical Catholic problem, for Eminence Winnaerts and his/her/its collaborators, becomes the problem of the western orthodoxy. Contrary to the old Catholics, he/it knew how to strip itself of himself in his/her/its faithful research of the true tradition, that had to bring it inevitably within orthodoxy, toward the unit primordial of the church. And in it resides his/her/its size, and his/her/its historic role, that was only a more and more conscious routing toward the western orthodoxy.

While passing to the second factor that contributed to the advent of the western orthodoxy, I feel somewhat uneasy, because I will be obliged to speak of the Confraternity of Saint Photius, of which I am the Chief. Nevertheless, historian’s integrity obliges me to note that the thesis of the western orthodoxy has been put by our Confraternity. Here are some facts.

In 1926, the Confraternity noted the necessity for the orthodox resident in West to study and to venerate the orthodox traditions of soil on which, by the ways of the divine Providence, we are obliged to live. One proclaimed the maxim: ” everything that is previous at the year 1054 is ours “. One studied the lives of the Saints, one organized some pélerinages, one began to write a calendar of the orthodox Saints of France.

In 1927, when Eugraph Kovalevsky was placed to the head of the domain of Saint Irénée, the essential goal of this part of the Confraternity was formulated by it, like a work for the advent of the western orthodoxy. From then on, the necessity to restore the western ritual within orthodoxy became obvious.

In 19281929 the Confraternity took part in the organization of a French parish, parish of oriental ritual it is true, but that played his/her/its role in the work of orthodoxy in West, was not that that by the interest that it caused in the diaspora’s Russian ecclesiastical surroundings for the orthodox mission in France. At this time we organized several meetings and conferences in languages French and Russian in various places of France (Paris, Nice, Strasbourg), dedicated to the western orthodoxy. To many resumptions, we proclaimed that the first religious duty of the Russian emigration is the mission of orthodoxy among the peoples of west. Such was also the thought of the Béatissime Serge of Moscow, expressed in his/her/its decree to the Russian bishops of Karlovtsy.

In 1930-1931, at the time of the separation of the Metropolitan Euloge of the church of Russia, when the canonical questions passed to the first plan, a canonical definition for the western orthodoxy to come became necessary. She/it was formulated, in general terms, of the following way,:

– the territory écclésiastique of west, as such, belongs to the Patriarchy of Rome. Therefore, no of the local Churches of Orient, nor the one of Constantinople, nor the one of Russia, cannot appropriate this territory as there founding new dioceses (for example, a diocese of Paris, a diocese of Rome, etc.). A local Church of west will only be born of the very soil of the west, as result of a mission, of a restoration of the western orthodoxy with his/her/its traditions, his/her/its ritual, his/her/its spirituality, the cult of his/her/its local Saints,. This goal, that won’t be achieved, probably, that by the following generations, require a collaboration of the orthodox of different nationalities residing in France and governed by the Exarqueses legitimate of their Churches Mothers. Once again, this formula is in the line of the thought of the Metropolitan Serge of Moscow that, while refuting the pretensions of the Metropolitan Euloge, was based on the same principle: impossibility for a local Church of Orient to found a normal diocese on the former territory of the Patriarchy of Rome.En 1932, to the Convention of the Confraternity united in Montfort, with the assistance of the Confraternity Georgian, a special report on the western orthodoxy was presented by the Brother E. Kovalevsky, or rather a call to the orthodox of the diaspora to unite in the big work of restoration of the western orthodoxy. During the same year, we learned the desire of Eminence Winnaert to enter in the unit of the orthodox church. We sustained the thought of the R.P briskly. Lev Gillet, that found that this union had to occur directly with Constantinople, without the mediator of the Metropolitan Euloge, whose position was canonically unjustifiable. Then, we didn’t stop following with attention the adventures of the talks of Eminence Winnaert with Constantinople. Finally March 17, 1936, receiving no precise answer of Constantinople, Eminence Winnaert confided to our Confraternity it tries to present his/her/its reason to the judgment of the Patriarchy of Moscow. A big file understanding the whole documentation presented to Constantinople and follow-up of a report previously on the western orthodoxy, written largely by the Brother Eugraph and myself, was sent by us to the Béatissime Serge of Moscow in the month of May 1936. The case of Eminence Winnaert gave us the possibility to plead before the ecclesiastical authorities the reason of the western orthodoxy, particularly dear to our Confraternity. We didn’t have to plead a lot: the discerning and vast mind of the big Primate of the Russian church seizes the first stroke all the importance and all consequences possible of the work that was presented him. He/it saw farther and more clearly than we.

We pass here to the third reason of the western orthodoxy: the Patriarchy of Moscow. The decree of June 1936 became the Big Charter of the western orthodoxy that must be studied and constantly commented by all those anxious to work in this domain. The will of the church, accomplished with paternal solicitude by S.E. the Metropolitan Eleuthère, made of the evangelical Catholic group the first core of the orthodox western. It would be useless to retrace the facts knew all, the meetings, the ordinations, the serious kindliness and magnetize the Metropolitan Eleuthère, the brotherly love demonstrated by the clergy and the Russian supporters to the new western brothers, all united like only one family around the coffin of Eminence Winnaert. Of these facts, we were more or less all witnesses near. He/it imports to speak of the less known things therefore, and to say some words on the continual works, although the most often past unobserved, of the organization that had to facilitate the realization of the will of the church. It was the temporary Commission, diocesan organization, instituted like such in the month of January 1937 by S.E. the Metropolitan Eleuthère shortly before his/her/its arrival in Paris. The whole technical part of the meeting work was achieved by the temporary Commission: necessary ecclesiastical text translations, formalities of chancellery, establishment of a precise program of the work of meeting and ordinations, that had to last more than two weeks. Besides, the temporary Commission had to proceed to one first reforms the evangelical Catholic liturgy, while executing, first, the strict minimum required by the decree of the Patriarchy of Moscow.

These corrections were reviewed then by Eminence Winnaert and the Brother Eugraph, and presented, with the former text of the liturgy, to the approval of S.E. the Metropolitan Eleuthère. Later, the preparation of a new edition printed of the liturgy obliged the Commission to take again and to push this work of correction of the texts farther. It is not necessary to forget that the liturgy of Eminence Winnaert, although orthodox by his/her/its intention, is born in surroundings foreign to orthodoxy she/it understood several elements that betrayed heterodox influences and, to this title, had to be modified, but modified in order to not to damage the liturgical whole, the interior structure of the text. The numerous meetings that took place happened in an atmosphere of attentive and conscientious work. No one allowed of the vague critiques and non founded, but, while examining, one always proposed a new formula, based on the knowledge of the traditions and the western liturgies. Every remark rested on special studies pursued by the members of the Commission.

I won’t mention, to be brief, that a characteristic example: ” Christ, our Lord ” who lives and reign with God the Father in the unit of the Holy spirit, (” in unitate Spiritus Sancti “) is a consequence obvious of the Roman filioquisme; she/it is dogmatically unjustifiable, the Person of the Holy spirit makes as her a simple function of unit of the Father and the Son, their common love, ” nexus amoris “. He was obvious, that this formula, that was also in the evangelical Catholic liturgy, had to be modified. But it was necessary that this modification was justified historically, taking into account the objections and critical possible on behalf of the Catholics – Roman scholars. One must resort to the exam of the former liturgical manuscripts of the ” Latin ” funds of the National Library and a more general survey of the Latin doxologies. He/it appeared that these doxologies began to undergo a modification since the VIIe century, under the influence of the councils of Tolède where the formulas filioquistes was introduced for the first time in West. But the text of the ancient doxologies was not mentioned nowhere. The missals of the Western Orthodoxy National Library, that date for most VIIIes, IXes and Xes centuries, and have been written in the setting of the Carolingians, fierce propagators of the filioquisme, carry the formula already: ” in unitate Sancti Spiritus “. We were obliged therefore to resort in the three oldest Sacramentaireses, Leoninums, Gelasianums, and Gregorianum. The editions critical of these texts made by Feltoo, Wilson and Ménard, with returns to the different missal variants (of the VIIe and VIIIe centuries), finally permitted us to reveal the formula trinitaire primitive of the western liturgies. She/it appears the most often in the Missal Gallican (published by Gerbert, in ” Monumenta clothed Alemannicae liturgiae, 1777). has It: ” who vivit and reigned cum Deo Shepherd and Spiritu Sancto “.

I took the liberty to stop your attention on this small work of learning, required by the goals of the Commission, in order to make take out again the whole complexity and the responsibility of work better for the western orthodoxy. Some similar problems rise at every instant and require a lot of attention, of prudence, a continual work, number of special studies to make, and especially, a lot of patience and cool-bloodedly.