The Battle for History – Part VI

Author: Vladimir Karpets

Translator: Yulian Orlov 

Zavtra no. 25 (918), 22 June 2011


Speaking of the development of meta-history into history, professor B. A. Uspensky states: “The past is organised like a text that is being read in the perspective of the present.” Furthermore: “Seeing as the past is inaccessible to contemplation, the question about the existence of the past is, essentially, a question of faith: after all, faith is nothing else if not “confidence in the invisible” (Hebrews 11:1). This definition of faith provided by the Apostle is equally applicable to the reception of history as well as to the religious reception of the icon” (ibid.).

The foundations of the modern, Western, linear view of time are found as far back as the work of the Blessed Augustine, “The City of God”. During the ensuing secularisation, the “cutting away” of the otherworldliness of the Heavenly City from inevitability gives birth to an endless linear movement towards a slippery future. This is the West’s road from Augustine to Jacques Attali with his “slurry” of “new nomads” [1].

In its sacred aspect (mainly in its Eucharistic cult and liturgical order), Orthodoxy emanates from the ex- and- pre-temporal being of the Son of God – “Before all worlds”, that is to say, above and beyond any eternity, which is why time fundamentally cannot be ordered as a line. “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The present predates the past. This is not even a cyclical image of time, but a supercyclical one. “Preordainment is the freezing of time” (“of water”, “of the dragon”). The Muscovite Tsar on horseback, which is based on the image of Saint George killing the dragon (the “rider”), is also the image of the taming of the ancient Kronos-Saturn.

It is precisely for this reason that the Church reforms of the 17th century became a catastrophe. The aim of such deformations of the liturgical order was the synchronisation of the history of Rus the Third Rome with the West, or the “sunset land.” The Greek text about the Kingdom of God of the Orthodox creed is literally translated as “it has no and there it will have no end.” In the ancient Russian reading of these words (and today’s Old Believer and edinoverets [2] pronunciation) is “His Kingdom has not an end.” During the reforms, “has not an end” was swapped out for “will not have.” The sacred dimension of time had been opened to an undetermined future condition; to be more precise, one that was similar to that of Romano-Catholicism; the “spiritual wolf” had been let off the leash. Russia irreversibly became part of the “global world.” It is for precisely this reason that the radical version of the Old Faith (“netovtsy”, “beguny” [3]) claimed that the “Church had gone away to heaven.” Everything, however, is far more complex. The raskol was launched exactly in order to complete linear time: “there should be time no longer”, as is said in Revelations. Both Nikonianism and Catholicism act in history, while Old Orthodoxy “emanates” from it, thereby keeping the ex- and- supra-historical senses of true Orthodoxy until the very end, as a transition beyond history…

This does not mean that the Old Believers were totally correct. The preservation of the Church mysteries and the rank of Tsar (Emperor) still meant that a total break with Holy Rus had not occurred. Apart from this, Emperor Paul instated Edinoveriye Old Ritualism within the ruling Church. Those Old Believer congregations that refused to pray for the Tsar and thereby turned into a “small people” become even less correct than the Nikonians had once been. We now have before us a “circle.” Its center is Old Orthodoxy, above all else Edinoveriye, which has invisibly continued the path of Old Orthodoxy. The “Old Rite” is a task for the future, or, to be more precise, for the eternal. The Greco-Russian Church and the “further periphery” (in a sacred sense), i.e. Romano-Catholicism, had been “turned towards history and into history”, and were thus, consequently, called to end it. Their fate was Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, as well as the deadlocked questions of Christian history, above all else the “Jewish question” [4]. 

Such a division opens the way towards the non-ecumenical and even anti-ecumenical interaction between Orthodoxy and Catholicism under the auspices of the Final Kingdom, the Empire of the End. When Emperor Paul offered the Roman Pope asylum in Polotsk, he did not have the “unification of the Churches” in mind, but rather a demonstration of the Imperial principle being above any and all divisions in the Church…The Empire has a nature different from that of the historical Church; however, it is secretly unified with the extemporal, eternal, and invisible heart of the Church. Thus, Emperor Paul received an icon of the Archangel Michael (the “Angel of the Awe-inspiring Commander”, as he is named in the canon of Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich Grozny) from the Old Believers at his coronation, and in his private church at the Mikhailovsky castle, the old rite saw practice. 

At the 2008 Christmas Lectures of the unit “Old rite in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church”, Deacon Maksim Plyakin presented a paper titled “Russian sacredness after the raskol and the pre-Nikonian rite.” The paper convincingly proved that the “fourth domain of the Mother of God”, the Sarov-Diveevo Monastery [5], from the very beginning essentially belonged to the dogma of Edinoveriye. What is more, we are speaking about the holy Serafim of Sarov himself, the “saint of the end”, as a “crypto-Old Believer” [6]. It thus becomes clear why, after the Sarov festivities in 1903, there followed a Supreme Ukaz on the establishment of altars at the Rogozhsky Cemetery and the granting of freedom to the old clergy.

The Last Russian Kingdom is ultimately called to “impute” the “prince of time”, the prince of this age. This is what is secretly called the mission of Michael.


Translator’s notes: 

[1]: Jacques Attali is a French economist, high ranking civil servant (on both the French and EU levels), and author. What Karpets is referring to here is his last book, A Brief History of the Future (2009: Arcade Publishing), in which Attali states that nation states will become obsolete between 2035-2050 and the entire world will transform into a “revisited democracy” founded upon a hyperliberal capitalist system.

[2]: Edinoveriye (Единоверие; lit. united-faith) refers to a special system in the Russian Orthodox Church. It allows parishioners who wish to use the Old Believer rite and creed to pray in parishes with Old Believer clergy; however, these parishes fall under the jurisdiction of the Nikonian Orthodox Church, thus giving birth to a “united faith”.

[3]: The netovtsy (нетовцы) are an Old Believer community who hold that a person can only be saved through prayer. In addition, they believe that the Church has become entirely corrupted by the Antichrist. The beguny (бегуны, runaways) are a now practically extinct Old Believer denomination that rejected all ecclesiastical and worldly authority.

[4]: This is not a reference to the Jews living in any one country or other, but rather about the degree to which Christianity borrowed from/ can be considered an extension of Judaism.

[5]: The “four domains of the Mother of God” are, according to Orthodox tradition, four areas that are under the direct guard of the Holy Virgin. Apart from the Sarov-Diveevo Monastery, they are Iberia (modern Georgia), Mount Athos, and the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.

[6]: Saint Serafim of Sarov (1754 – 1833) is one of the most popular saints in the Russian Orthodox Church. His teachings are concerned with extending the values of asceticism and monasticism to the lay believer. Karpets here refers to the rumours alleging that the saint descended from a family of “crypto-Old Believers” or that Saint Serafim himself was a secret Old Ritualist. These rumours are fed by the good relations which the saint enjoyed with the Old Believer community. However, practically all hagiographical and historical data show that Saint Serafim rejected the Old Rite and was a supporter of the Nikonian reforms.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s