Nowadays, for many fellow citizens, residents of Russia, and not to mention foreigners, the difference between the Old Rite and the New Rite is completely unclear.
Some believe that the church schism occurred solely because of errors in old books and in rituals and because of the common people’s excessive adherence to these errors. Others believe that the division between the Old Ritualists and the New Ritualists is based on differences in the cultural and historical traditions. While others express an opinion that the church schism was caused by socio-political reasons and that the schism was inevitable in the course of the modernization of Russia in the late 17th – early 18th century.
Let’s answer some questions that Old Believers are asked by people who are interested in why they did not follow the supporters of the church reforms of Patriarch Nikon and Emperor Peter I, and also, what church changes that have taken place since the middle of the 17th century to the present day are not accepted by the Old Ritualists.
Is it true that the Old Rite differs from the New Rite only in the way of crossing oneself, the different way of writing the name of the Savior, a double hallelujah, completing cross processions by walking in a clockwise direction instead of anticlockwise and some variations of texts in books, but with the articles of faith, dogmas and church canons there is no discrepancies?
No, this is not correct. By changing the ritual of forming the sign of the cross, the ritual of the sacrament of baptism, the double hallelujah and other aspects of the church tradition, Patriarch Nikon and his followers initiated the change of the very faith. Rejecting the sacred tradition of the Church, accepting the three-fingered sign of the cross when crossing oneself, the triple hallelujah and other novelties, the New Ritualists opened the way for false teachings, philosophies and heresies, which violated the most important foundations of the faith itself. In the Russian New Orthodox Church were fulfilled the prophetic words of the venerable Vikenty Lirinsky: “Rejecting any part of the ecumenical teaching opens the way to gradually rejecting one after another parts of it. And then, when the parts are discarded singly, what else will follow, if not the cumulative rejection of the whole? On the other hand, if they begin to combine the new with the old, the known with the unknown, the consecrated with the worthless, then this custom will spread throughout, so that after that nothing will remain with the church – neither whole, nor undamaged, nor unspoiled, nor uncorrupted. But, where there used to be a sanctuary of pure and untainted truth, in the end there will be an indecent house of unrighteous and wretched mistakes”.
How did the changes to making the sign of the cross, hallelujahs and the changes of the texts in books produced by Patriarch Nikon open the way for the emergence of heresies and non-Orthodox teachings?
In his reforms, patriarch Nikon and his assistants relied on modern Greek and Little Russian (Ukrainian) church practices. This ascertained knowledge is now no longer refuted by anyone. At that time, the new Greek and Little Russian church traditions (starting with the forming of the sign of the cross and ending with theology) were under the monumental influence of Uniatism, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and even Hagarism (Islam) and therefore lost the purity of ecumenical Orthodoxy. These heretical adoptions brought to Russia became the first push towards the wrong philosophizing of the ruling Church.
Furthermore, attempting to justify the reforms in the eyes of the people of Russia, Nikon and his followers used fraud and perjury to convince the people that the changes being made were in accordance to the teachings of the holy apostles, the holy fathers and the ancient church traditions. For example, it was indicated in the forewords in new liturgical books that they were printed according to ancient manuscripts. False evidence of the ancient church authorities was orally invested, which became the second reason for the appearance of heresies and non-Orthodox teachings.
When the New Ritualists saw that, despite the forgery and false evidence, the people still did not believe them, they appealed to the state authorities with permission to apply the most severe repressions and force the population of Russia to accept the liturgical reforms. This is the third basis for the emergence of heretical teachings.
Another reason for the adoption of non-Orthodox teachings was the reform of the New Orthodox Church conducted during the reign of Emperor Peter I. The state power, called by the New Ritualists to fight against the Old Rite, soon began to rule the New Rite Church itself. The emperor became the head of the church. He and his officials decided the issues of church life, including the appointment of bishops, priests, the establishment of canonical rules, the carrying out of church ceremonies and rites. Sacraments, such as confession and communion, were placed under the control and service of the police and state administration. This finally distorted the New Rite Church from the purity of the Christian faith and placed it, to this day, in total dependence on worldly authorities.
The so-called period of the “Latin and German captivity” became an essential basis for the appearance of heresies, when in the 18th and 19th centuries, all theology of the New Rite Church was based on Roman Catholic and Protestant borrowings. Then emerged teachings about the instructions and studies of the church, about the infallibility of the hierarchy, the legal theory of the atonement of Christ’s sacrifice, and Latin (Roman Catholic) customs in worship, such as the blessing of candles on the feast day of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, readings of the Passion (texts of the sufferings of Christ) in the days of the passionate Holy Week, “five-count” (pyatochislenniy) prayers to the Virgin Mary and much more.
The last reason for the appearance of the disputable interpretations of the sacred tradition was the doctrine of “equal salvation and equality of rituals”. In the first years after the church split, Nikon and his followers assured that reforms such as crossing oneself using three fingers, the clergy’s blessing using the finger formation in the form of the Greek letters IC XC (which constitutes the monogram of Jesus Christ in Greek), walking cross processions against the sun (anticlockwise) and other reforms were of ancient origins, which the church received either from the holy apostles or from Christ himself. Over the years, with the emergence of new facts, more and more indisputable information began to appear which showed that the arguments of reformers have no reliable grounds. When it became clear to the descendants of the New Rite Church that the reforms have no relation either to the apostles, or to the holy fathers, or to the ancient church tradition, then the New Rite theologians drastically changed their point of view. If yesterday they argued that crossing oneself with three fingers and other new rites are actually ancient, today they began to argue that the age of the rituals has no beneficial meaning.
The doctrine was developed so that the church (or rather, its earthly leadership in the form of bishops) has the right over any ceremonial reforms. Meaning, they can abolish old traditions and establish new ones, ban old rites, bless newly invented ones and that all these changes will be correct, since they are created of the church elite.
In the end, the New Ritualists began to argue that all church liturgical forms are equal and equally saving; and that the main thing is not the confession of faith itself or the proper performance of ceremonies, but the submission of the opinion of the church leadership at a given time and the exact execution of its instructions. This principle became the newest and most important foundation of modern theology of the dominant Church.
What heretical teachings have penetrated into the New Rite Orthodox Church together with the New Greek and Little Russian (Ukrainian) borrowings?
It is widely known that both the Greek and the Little Russian Churches have long been under the influence of Roman Catholicism. The crusades, the Ferrarro-Florentine union and the wide participation of the Vatican have influenced the internal affairs of the Eastern churches, including the appointment of acceptable patriarchs and metropolitans. In recent years, letters from the Eastern hierarchs to the Pope have been published, where they directly call him the primate. The number of non-Orthodox borrowings made during the reforms of patriarch Nikon and subsequent years were so immense that only a short description of them would require a whole book. Therefore, we mention only some of them.
The first changes in the religion entered the divine service of the New Ritualists even during the so-called “book corrections”. As is now confirmed from research, the samples for the books of the New Rite were not from ancient Orthodox manuscripts, but from editions printed in Italian and Little Russian (Ukrainian) printing houses – the 1602 Venetian church service book of Antony Pinela and the 1604 Stryatinksy church service book of the bishop of Lvov, Gedeon Balaban (Dmitrievsky A. ‘The correcting of the books under patriarch Nikon and subsequent patriarchs’, Moscow, 2004. p. 31, 40). The latter, among other things, became famous for condemning the Orthodox brotherhood of Little Russia and bishop Gedeon was the first among the Ukrainian bishops to join Uniatism.
In the course of the so-called correcting of the church service books, a whole range of Latin (Roman Catholic) teachings were introduced. Thus, in the liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, prayers and religious rites were rearranged in accordance with Catholic dogma. In particular, in the church service book of 1655 and subsequent church service books, the completion of the Holy Gifts was timed to coincide with the utterance of the words “Accept and consume” and “Drink from it”, and not to the prayer of the calling of the Holy Spirit. Professor A. Dmitrievsky pointed out that the book correctors, employed by Nikon, inserted into the Chinovnik (the order of the church service book) “without any reservations, all the features inherent in the distorted original (that is, the Uniate book edition of the order of the church service), including foreign teachings for the Orthodox Church”. Non-Orthodox teachings of the same kind were included in other liturgical books. The Latin doctrine of the timing of the completion of the Holy Gifts is also contained in the doctrinal book “Zhezl” (“Crozier”), approved by the Great Moscow Council of 1666.
Many Latin heresies are contained in the Trebnik (the Book of Needs prayer book) of the Kiev metropolitan Peter Mogila of 1646. The New Ritualists themselves admit that “he included in his Trebnik some ordinances and prayers from the Roman Trebnik of 1615, first edited under Pope Paul V in 1603” (Archpriest G. Nefedov. Sacraments and rites of the Orthodox Church, “Pilgrim”, Moscow, 2002. p. 11). The Trebnik of Peter Mogila is not only still used today in the New Believer Church, but many of its articles are included in other liturgical books (“Educational news”, “The order of non-Christians joining the church”, “The book of prayer singing”, “Following the exodus of the soul” and many others).
Meanwhile, it is well known that Peter Mogila (canonized not so long ago in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate) was a supporter of the union with the Catholic Church: “Today there is no doubt that Peter Mogila nearly brought the matter to the new ‘Union of Kiev’ and even after his death his in 1645, the danger remained the same” (Lurye, V.M. Afterword / Archpriest Ioann Meidorf. “The life and works of Gregory Palamas”. Annotation 17).
Not only were certain parts of the services converted into Catholic fashion. Today, in the days of the Great Lent, New Ritualists also serve the Catholic service of later origin, “Passio” (Latin for Passion – the suffering of Christ). Akathists were given a wide distribution, many of which are of Uniate origin and glorify ulcerations, nails and other passionate Catholic attributes. “All the innumerable numbers of [Catholic attributes] scattered in prayer books, canons and books of Akathists, is the product of a later and, it must be said, very degenerate work… and is nothing more than a wretched and meaningless effort to rephrase the classical Akathist”. (Archimandrite Cyprian (Kern). Liturgics. Hymnography and Heortology: Krutitsky Patriarchal Compound, Moscow, 2000. p. 33).
Catholic borrowings strongly affected the theology of the dominant Church. The aforementioned metropolitan Peter Mogila compiled the well-known “Orthodox confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Church of the east” (1640) and the “Small Catechism” (1645), which are full of Latin (Roman Catholic) heresies, including Catholic teachings about the time of “transubstantiation” of Holy Gifts, about Purgatory, the legal theory of redemption, etc. The “Small Catechism”, to this day, remains a popular book in New Rite Church.
Among other Latin heresies, the legal theory of the atoning sacrifice of Christ was especially prevalent in the New Rite. Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov), archbishop Philaret (Amphiteatrov), metropolitan Macarius (Bulgakov) and professor M. Skaballanovich adhered to this theology. The New Rite achbishop Hilarion (Troitsky) frankly acknowledged the non-Orthodox nature of the New Rite wisdom on this issue: “This is what German and Latin captivity has done to our theology. In the teaching of salvation from sin, this slavery rejected our theology from Gregory the Theologian and other fathers of the Church and brought closer to Anselm (Canterbury) and other scholastic fathers” (quoted by archpriest Livе́riy Voronov. Dogmatic theology. “Christian Life” Foundation, Klin, 2002, p. 87).
New Rite theologians have no better opinion about their Symbolic books and Catechisms. About the ‘Orthodox confession’, which was signed by the four Eastern patriarchs and still considered the main symbolic book of the New Rite faith, it is written: “‘The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Church’…includes the Roman Catholic catechism of Peter Canisius, almost literally borrowing whole pages from him, particularly the section about morality”, “The Orthodox confession remains the most “Latin-dominant” text from the symbolic monuments of the 17th century” (Archbishop Vasily (Krivosheyin), Symbolic texts in the Orthodox Church. “Sardonyx”, 2003. pp. 53-54).
Much criticism has been said about the catechism of metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov), which became in time the basis of scholastic theology. Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) described this work as: “This book is full of Roman Catholic errors”.
Today, many of these questionable texts and books continue to be the theological principles of the New Rite Church. In recent years, all of them have been republished and widely distributed in churches and educational institutions of the ruling church. In 2006, the Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate reissued an extensive catechism of metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov). In the annotation of the book is written: “A reviewed and textually verified reprinting of the famous catechism as an exellent theological and literary monument was undertaken for the first time. The Catechism, which still remains the authoritative “symbolic book” (official by declaration) of the Russian Orthodox Church, should be the reference book of each member” (“Extensive Christian catechism of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church” / [St. Philaret (Drozdov), Preface. Candidate of Historical Sciences, Dunaev, A.G.] Moscow: Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, 2006, p. 2).
The making of the sign of the cross using three fingers is attributed to the Roman Catholic borrowings, given that the first mention of it refers specifically to the Roman Church. As Pope Innocent III wrote: “Crossing oneself is to be done with three fingers, for this is done with the invocation of the Trinity, of which the prophet (Isaiah, XL, 12) says: “Who holds the earthly burden with three fingers?”. The pope derived the origin of the three-fingered cross formation from the Latin Bible – the Vulgate. There are no such words neither in the Greek nor in the Slavonic texts. Innocent III organized the IV Crusade, which resulted in the seizure and looting of Constantinople, the plundering of Orthodox shrines and implemented the three-fingered cross formation.
Baptism by pouring, common now in the dominant Church, also has a Roman Catholic origin. The Catholics stopped baptizing by immersion in the 15th century. Polyphonic singing (at first it was called organopartesnym peniye, that is, ‘singing imitating an organ’) and religious paintings, which in the New Rite almost completely superseded liturgical forms of church art, were of Catholic origin. Finally, the replacement of the Orthodox eighth-pointed cross by the Latin four-pointed cross (including persecution of the eighth-pointed cross under the pretext that it was “schismatic” in the 18th – 19th centuries) and kneeling were the most visible signs of the Catholic influence adopted by the Russian New Ritualists.
New Greek errors have a less noticeable, however, a just as a significant place in non-Orthodox borrowings after Catholic ones. After the Greek Church was subjected to the strongest cultural and religious pressure from Muslims and Crusaders, it lost the Ecumenical and Catholic character of the confession of Christ, leaning more towards the national identification of faith. Thus, the Greeks began to argue that only the modern Greek language and the new Greek customs and traditions are the foundations of the Orthodox faith. Meanwhile, several new Greek traditions completely contradicted the Ecumenical Orthodox tradition. For example, the Greeks began to assert that the clergy should bless the people using the finger formation in the form of the Greek letters IC XC (which constitutes the monogram of Jesus Christ in Greek). In doing so, it was saying that the fingers, depicting the Greek letters, were given to man by the Lord: “By divine providence from the beginning, from Him, the Creator of all, the fingers of the human hand are arranged, not more nor less than… but enough for this meaningful sign” (‘Skrizhal’, p. 817 reversed). In addition, the Greeks and the New Ritualists who followed them assured that the Savior was the first to bless using the Greek letters in Israel: “We learn this blessing from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself” (“Zhezl” [The Crozier], p. 63). Such philosophies of the Greek and Russian New Ritualists were the result of the doctrine of the Christian birthright of the Greek people. In “The Confession of the Eastern, Catholic and Apostolic Church” (1625), the patriarch of Alexandria, Mitrofan (Kritopulo), endorsed the idea of the exclusivity of the Greek people by the fact that the Jews and Romans rejected and crucified Christ, but the Greeks glorified Him.
Accepting the doctrine of the IC XC finger formation and other nationalistic customs of the Greeks, the Russian New Ritualists went further. They began to dispute that only the Greek form of the name of the Lord, “Иисус” (Iisus meaning “Jesus”) is redemptive. In the Church Councils of 1666–1667, the use of the Slavic form of the name of the Savior, “Исус” (Isus meaning “Jesus”) was prohibited. The New Ritualist archbishop Dimitri of Rostov (Tuptalo) wrote that: “It is better to write Иисус, not Исус, because the continuation of the name of the Savior, as like the Greeks, is spoken in three syllables and not in two. In the Russian language, the schismatics, using two syllables to say Jesus, do not confess the Savior and Healer of our souls…but another Jesus…“ (Metropolitan Dimitri of Rostov. “Investigation of the schismatic Bryansk faith”. Moscow, 1855, p. 47, 48).
The teachings of the IC XC finger formation and the spelling of the name of the Savior are undoubtedly heresy, not only because the Lord did not create fingers in the form of Greek or Slavic letters and the Savior did not preach to the Jews in Greek, but because these teachings directly contradict the commandments of Christ, the apostle and holy fathers – to preach the Son of God “in all languages”.
What borrowings were made by patriarch Nikon and other New Ritualists from the Hagarians (Muslims)?
The borrowings made by patriarch Nikon were so widespread that the reformers, without any restrictions, borrowed a variety of cultural practices, not excluding Muslim ones. Hence, the New Ritualist priests and monks today wear wide-sleeved robes, sewn to imitate the clothes of wealthy and high-ranking officials of the Ottoman Empire, “bucket-shaped” monastic hoods and kamilavki (headwear worn by Orthodox monks and clergy) were made in imitation of the Turkish fezzes, and miters in the style of Eastern turbans.
Meanwhile, the wearing of Hagarian garments were strictly prohibited in Russia in order to maintain the purity of the faith. The Stoglav council of the Russian Church in 1551 strictly instructed that “it is prohibited for an Orthodox Christian to wear godlessly cursed Makhmetov traditions which evil customs the sacred rules forbid and do not permit for an Orthodox to introduce non-Christian customs” (“Stoglav” Ch. 39). The particular violation of these customs is the fact that it is not the laity wearing clothes of Muslim style but specifically, the clergy.
In ancient times, a monk was supposed to wear a headdress that looked like an infant cap – a “cowl of good nature”. To this day, such headgear is worn, for example, by the Coptic monks. Today, New Rite monks and nuns erect on their heads cylindrical hoods, which in no way resemble children’s “cowls of good nature” and appear as a bad copy of a Turkish fez. It is interesting that the Greek monastic hoods, in which the New Ritualists adopted the form of, look much smaller and neater. The Russian decision to enlarge the Greek hoods is very similar to the manner of the African rulers of the 20th century to wear enlarged general’s caps of the European type.