« Prev The Doctrinal Standards of the Russo-Greek Church. Next »

§ 19. The Doctrinal Standards of the Russo-Greek Church.


I. Russian Doctrine and Theology:

The Catechisms of Platon and Philaret (see below).

R. W. Blackmore: The Doctrine of the Russian Church, etc., Aberdeen, 1845.

W. Guettée (Russian Priest and Doctor of Divinity): Exposition de la doctrine de l’église catholique orthodoxe de Russie, Paris, 1866.

Theophanes Procopowicz: Theologia Christiana orthodoxa, Königsberg, 1773–1775, 5 vols. (abridged, Moscow, 1802).

Hyac. Kirpinski: Compendium orthodoxæ theologiæ, Lips. 1786.

II. Worship and Ritual:

The divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (the Liturgy used in the Orthodox Eastern Church), Greek ed. by Daniel, Cod. Liturg. Tom. IV. P. II. p. 327, etc.; by J. M. Neale, in Primitive Liturgies, 2d edition, London, 1868; English translations by King, Neale, Brett, Covel, J. Freeman Young (the last publ. New York, 1865, as No. VI. of the 'Papers of the Russo-Greek Committee'). Comp. also the entire fourth volume of Daniel's Codex Liturg. (which gives the Oriental Liturgies), and Neale's Primitive Liturgies, and his Introd. to the History of the Holy Eastern Church (Lond. 1850).

John Glen King (Anglican Chaplain at St. Petersburg): The Rites and Ceremonies of the Greek Church in Russia, Lond. 1772. Very instructive.

III. History and Present Condition of the Russian Church:

Alex. de Stourdza: Considérations sur la doctrine et l’esprit de l’église orthodoxe, Weimar, 1816.

Strahl: Contributions to Russian Church History, Halle, 1827: and History of the Russian Church, Halle, 1830.

Mouravieff: History of the Church of Russia, St. Petersburg, 1840; translated by Blackmore, Oxford, 1842. Comes down to 1721.

Pinkerton: Russia, London, 1833.

Haxthausen: Researches on Russia, German and French, 1847–52, 3 vols.

Theiner: Die Staats-Kirche Russlands, 1853.

H. J. Schmitt: Kritische Geschichte der neugriechischen und der russischen Kirche, Mainz, 2d ed. 1854.

Prince Aug. Galitzin: L’église Græco-Russe, Paris, 1861.

Dean Stanley: Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church, Lond. and N. Y. 1862, Lect. IX.–XII.

Boissard: L’église de Russie, Paris, 1867, 2 vols.

Philaret (Archbishop of Tschernigow): Geschichte der Kirche Russlands, transl. by Blumenthal, 1872.

Basaroff: Russische orthodoxe Kirche. Ein Umriss ihrer Entstehung u. ihres Lebens, Stuttgart, 1873.

Also the Occasional Papers of the 'Eastern Church Associations' of the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, publ. in Lond. (Rivington's), and N. York, since 1864.

The latest doctrinal standards of Greek Christianity are the authorized Catechisms and Church-books of the orthodox Church of Russia, by far the most important and hopeful branch of the Eastern Communion.

Russia received Christianity from the Byzantine Empire. Cyril and Methodius, two monks of Constantinople, preached the gospel to the Bulgarians on the Danube after the middle of the ninth century, translated the Scriptures145145    The Psalms and the New Testament, with the exception of the Apocalypse. into the Slavonic language (creating the Slavonic alphabet in quaint Greek characters), and thus laid the foundation of Slavonic literature and civilization. This event was contemporary with the founding of the Russian Empire by Ruric, of the Norman race (A.D. 862), and succeeded by half a century the founding of the 69German Empire under Charlemagne, in close connection with Rome (A.D. 800). As the latter was a substitute for the Western Roman Empire, so the former was destined to take the place of the Eastern Roman Empire, and looks forward to the reconquest of Constantinople, as its natural capital. The barbarous Russians submitted, in the tenth century, without resistance, to Christian baptism by immersion, at the command of their Grand Duke, Vladimir, who himself was brought over to Christianity by a picture on the last judgment, and his marriage to a sister of the Greek Emperor Basil. In this wholesale conversion every thing is characteristic: the influence of the picture, the effect of marriage, the power of the civil ruler, the military command, the passive submission of the people.

Since that time the Greek Church has been the national religion of the Slavonic Russians, and identified with all their fortunes and misfortunes. For a long time they were subject to the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. But after the fall of this city (1453) the Metropolitan of Moscow became independent (1461), and a century later (January, 1589) he was raised by Patriarch Jeremiah II. of Constantinople, then on a collecting tour in Russia, to the dignity of a Patriarch of equal rank with the other four (of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem). Moscow was henceforward the holy city, the Rome of Russia.

In the beginning of the eighteenth century, Peter the Great, a second Constantine, founded St. Petersburg (1703), made this city the political and ecclesiastical capital of his Empire, and created, in the place of the Patriarchate of Moscow, the 'Most Holy Governing Synod,' with the Czar as the head (1721). This organic change was sanctioned by the Eastern Patriarchs (1723), who look upon the emperor-pope of Russia as their future deliverer from the intolerable yoke of the Turks.

[Note.—Since the revolution of 1917 and the assassination of the Czar, the position of the Russian Church has undergone a radical change. The Soviet government has passed from a law abolishing the union of Church and State to a relentless war against all religion and religious exercises, the confiscation of Church property, the suppression of religious liberty, the imprisonment and execution of clerical personages, and even to a policy of active atheistic propaganda. Conforming to the new civil order, the Holy Sober—council—met, August, 1917, with 564 delegates present, of whom 278 were laymen, and constituted Tikhon (1866–1925) Most holy Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, thus re-establishing the patriarchate after an interval of two centuries. Tikhon resisted 70the Soviet acts instituting civil marriage and disestablishing the Church, and placed the state officials under excommunication. The government replied by further legislation hostile to the Church, and Tikhon was put under arrest and resigned the patriarchate, 1922. In the mean time a 'reforming' organization, calling itself the 'Living Church,' was effected, which acknowledged the Soviet revolution and made the 'white clergy'—in contrast to the monks—eligible to the episcopal office. The Sober of April, 1924, received greetings from Dr. Blake of the Methodist Episcopal Church, disavowed Tikhon's anti-Soviet deliverances, endorsed the separation of Church and State, and granted to widowed and divorced priests the right of remarriage. A third Sober affirmed that supreme ecclesiastical authority resided in itself and not in the patriarch, a declaration accepted by Gregory VII, œcumenical patriarch of Constantinople, other Eastern patriarchs dissenting. The Tikhon wing was continued under Peter, Metropolitan of Krutitsky, whom Tikhon had designated as his successor. Peter was banished for anti-Soviet policies, and his place filled by Abp. Sergius, who himself was imprisoned but released, 1927, after promising to support the existing civil government. The émigré bishops, with Serbia as a rallying-place, have favored the restoration of the empire, and June 30, 1930, Sergius deposed Eulogius from the post of so-called supreme bishop of the Russian Church outside of Russia. Soviet legislation, 1930, confirmed all previous acts calculated to blot out religious convictions and ritual. It forbids the teaching of religion to persons under eighteen, the organization of meetings of women and children for purposes of prayer and biblical and literary study or for sewing, the organization under Church influence of libraries and reading-rooms, and even measures intended to give sanitary and medical assistance. It prohibits the teaching of any form of religious belief in educational establishments, and the formation of all boys' and girls' clubs in church buildings. Religious teaching is treated as "anti-revolutionary activity." The secret propaganda of religion among the masses is forbidden, and ministers of religion, including rabbis and nuns, who continue to follow their religion are disfranchised and made ineligible for public office. Bibles and prayer-books are confiscated. Church buildings are put at the State's disposal. Articles of gold and silver and precious stones are to be given up upon the discontinuance of a house of worship, and places of worship having a historic or artistic value pass to the State. Processions on festival days are forbidden, as also is the observance of Christmas, Easter, and other Church feasts. In addition to such laws, the Soviet has carried out its destructive policy by films and posters ridiculing and blaspheming Christianity. By governmental order or the populace, multitudes of icons have been destroyed and pretended bodies of saints dishonored and shown to be made of wax or straw. The treatment of the Russian Church and clergy has called forth from the pope and the Church of England resolutions against the government's policy, and letters of sympathy. Since 1914, friendly gestures have been made from Rome calculated to win favor for the Roman Church. In 1920, Ephraem of Edessa was enrolled among the doctors of the Church. The Oriental College in Rome has been enlarged. In 1921, Benedict XV. addressed the Russians as 'our distant children who, though separated from us by the barriers of centuries, are all the nearer our paternal heart, the greater their misfortunes are.' In 1929, Pius XI. issued an appeal in Italian for prayer for 'our brethren in Russia,' which spoke of  'the sacrilege heaped upon the priests and believers, and the violence done to the conscience by the Soviets.' The pontiff appointed a solemn mass to be celebrated over St. Peter's tomb, March 19, 1930, and called for the help of  'the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, her most chaste spouse, St. Joseph, patron of the Church universal, John Chrysostom and other patron saints of the Russians, and of all saints, especially St. Therèse of the Cradle of Jesus, the sweet thaumaturge of Lisieux.' In the form of prayer which Pius added for general use, the petition was made that the Russians may return 'to the one fold and the communion of the Catholic 71Church,' and an indulgence of 300 days offered to all making the prayer piously. Resolutions passed by the Convocations Canterbury and York, 1930, called for special prayers in the churches at the morning and evening services, March 16.—Ed.]

We have already seen that the 'Orthodox Confession,' or the first systematic and complete exhibition of the modern Greek faith, is the product of a Russian prelate, Peter Mogilas of Kieff. It was followed, and practically superseded, by other catechisms, which are much better adapted to the religious instruction of the young.

1. The Catechism of Platon, Metropolitan of Moscow (died 1812), one of the very few Russian divines whose name is known beyond their native land.146146    'Orthodox Doctrine, or Summary of Christian Divinity;' first published 1762 in Russian, and translated into eight languages: in English, ed. by R. Pinkerton, Edinb. 1814; German ed., Riga, 1770; Latin ed., Moscow, 1774. Blackmore (l.c. p. vii.) speaks of three Catechisms of Platon, which probably differ only in size. He was the favorite of the Empress Catherine II. (died 1796), and, for a time, of her savage son, the Emperor Paul (assassinated 1801), and at the end of his life he encouraged the Emperor Alexander I. in the terrible year of the French invasion and the destruction of Moscow. When the French atheist Diderot began a conversation with the sneering remark, 'There is no God,' Platon instantly replied, 'The fool says in his heart, There is no God.' He was a great preacher and the leader of a somewhat milder type of Russian orthodoxy, not disinclined to commune with the outside world. His Catechism was originally prepared for his pupil, the Grand Duke Paul Petrovitsch, and shows some influence of the evangelical system by its tendency to go directly to the Bible.

2. The Catechism of Philaret, revised, authorized, and published by the Holy Synod of St. Petersburg. It is translated into several languages, and since 1839 generally used in the schools and churches of Russia. It was sent to all the Eastern Patriarchs, and unanimously approved by them.147147    Philaret wrote two Catechisms—a shorter one, called 'Elements of Christian Learning; or, a Short Sacred History and a Short Catechism,' St. Petersburg, at the Synodical Press, 1840 (only about twelve pages), and a longer one under the title, 'A Full Catechism of the Orthodox Catholic Church of the East, examined and approved by the Most Holy Governing Synod, and published for the Use of Schools and of all Orthodox Christians, by order of His Imperial Majesty,' Moscow, at the Synodical Press, 1839 (English translation of Blackmore, Aberdeen, 1845). Most of the German works on Symbolics ignore Philaret altogether. Even Hofmann (p. 136) and Gass (p. 440) barely mention him. We give his Larger Catechism in the second volume.


Philaret (born 1782, died 1867) was for forty-seven years (1820–67) Metropolitan of Moscow. He was intrusted with the important State secret of the will of Alexander I., and crowned his two successors (Nicholas I. and Alexander II.). He represents, in learning, eloquence, and ascetic piety, the best phase of the Russian State Church in the nineteenth century.148148    Dean Stanley, who saw him in Moscow in 1857, praises his striking and impressive manner as a preacher, his gentleness, his dignified courtesy and affability, and associates him with a reactionary revival of mediæval sanctity, which had its parallel in the Puseyism of the Church of England. The Scottish Bishop of Moray and Ross, who called on him in behalf of the Eastern Church Association in 1866, describes him as the most venerated and beloved man in the Russian Empire, and as 'gentle, humble, and pious.' Comp. Souchkow, Memoirs of Philaret, Moscow, 1868; Select Sermons of Philaret. transl. from the Russian, London (Jos. Masters), 1873.

His longer Catechism (called a full catechism) is, upon the whole, the ablest and clearest summary of Eastern orthodoxy, and shows a disposition to support every doctrine by direct Scripture testimony. It follows the plan and division of the Orthodox Confession of Mogilas, and conforms to its general type of teaching, but it is more clear, simple, evangelical, and much better adapted for practical use. In a number of introductory questions it discusses the meaning of a catechism, the nature and necessity of right faith and good works, divine revelation, the holy tradition and Holy Scripture (as the two channels of the divine revelation and the joint rule of faith and discipline), the Canon of the Scriptures (exclusive of the Apocrypha, because 'not written in Hebrew'), with some account of the several books of the Old and New Testaments, and the composition of the Catechism. This is divided into three parts, like the Confession of Mogilas, according to the three cardinal virtues (1 Cor. xiii. 13).

First Part: On Faith. An Exposition of the Nicene Creed, arranged in twelve articles. In the doctrine of the Church the Protestant distinction of the visible and invisible Church is, in a modified sense, adopted; Christ is declared to be the only and ever-abiding Head of the Church, and it is stated that the division of the Church into many particular and independent organizations, as those of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, Russia (Rome, Wittenberg, Geneva, and Canterbury are ignored); does not hinder them from being spiritually members 'of the one body of the Universal Church, from having one Head, Christ, and one spirit of faith and of grace.'


Second Part: On Hope. An Exposition of the Lord's Prayer (in seven petitions), and of the nine Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount.

Third Part: On Love or Charity. An Exposition of the Decalogue as teaching, in two tables, love to God and love to our neighbor. The last question is: 'What caution do we need when we seem to ourselves, to have fulfilled any commandment?  A. We must then dispose our hearts according to the words of Jesus Christ: "When ye have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do" (Luke xvii. 10).'

3. Finally, we may mention, as secondary standards of Russian orthodoxy and discipline, the Primer or Spelling-Book, and a Treatise on The Duty of Parish Priests.149149    Both translated by Blackmore, l.c.

The Primer contains the rudiments of religious learning for children and the common people, viz., daily prayers (including the Lord's Prayer, and the 'Hail Mary, Virgin Mother of God,' yet without the 'Pray for us' of the Latin formula), the Nicene Creed, the Ten Commandments (the second and fourth abridged), with brief explanations and short moral precepts.

The Treatise on The Duty of Parish Priests was composed by George Konissky, Archbishop of Mogileff (died 1795), aided by Parthenius Sopkofsky, Bishop of Smolensk, and first printed at St. Petersburg in 1776. All candidates for holy orders in the Russian Seminaries are examined on the contents of this book. It is mainly disciplinary and pastoral, a manual for the priests, directing them in their duties as teachers, and as administrators of the mysteries or sacraments. But doctrine is incidentally touched, and it is worthy of remark that this Treatise approaches more nearly to the evangelical principle of the supremacy of the Bible in matters of Christian faith and Christian life than any deliverance of the Eastern Church.150150   See Part I. No. VIII.–XIII. pp. 160–164 in Blackmore's version: 'All the articles of the faith are contained in the Word of God, that is, in the books of the Old and New Testaments. . . . The Word of God is the source, foundation, and perfect rule, both of our faith and of the good works of the law. . . . The writings of the holy Fathers are of great use . . . but neither the writings of the holy Fathers nor the traditions of the Church are to be confounded or equaled with the Word of God and his Commandments.'

« Prev The Doctrinal Standards of the Russo-Greek Church. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection