The Struggle against Renovationism (1922-1924)
On March 18, 1922 Bishop Theodore was released from prison. In May, 1922, Patriarch Tikhon was arrested, and the so-called "Temporary Church Administration" of the renovationist heretics, supported by the communist authorities, seized control of the Church's administrative machinery. Soon those hierarchs and priests who rejected the renovationists' "Living Church", and remained faithful to the patriarch and Orthodoxy, were being sent into prison and exile. In Moscow almost everyone deserted the patriarch; among the very few who did not were the Danilov monastery led by Bishop Theodore and the St. Nicholas on "Maroseika" parish led by the renowned elder and priest, Fr. Alexis Mechiev.
Fr. Alexis had the greatest respect for Bishop Theodore, calling him a pillar of Orthodoxy. He asked him to ordain his son Sergius, the future hieromartyr, which he did on April 4, 1919 in the Danilov monastery. One of Vladyka's spiritual daughters recalls: "It was winter . In the three main prisons languished between seven and ten archpastors, and three to four metropolitans. We, the sisters of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, attended to their needs. We encountered many difficulties and dangers; there were some unpleasant situations. But I had nobody to turn to for advice, since my spiritual director, Archbishop Theodore, was in the Taganka prison... I often met Fr. Alexis, and we talked about charitable works. Once, when we were parting in somebody else's house, batyushka said to me: 'Are you going to accompany me?' 'No, forgive me,' I said, 'I can't.' 'Well, how can I compare with your cathedral protopriests!' But our hosts commented: 'You're not joking, are you, batyushka? Shouldn't you rather be asking about the bishops?' 'Who, then? Vladyka Hilarion? No. Vladyka Bartholomew? No. Who, then?' 'His Eminence Theodore.' 'Ah well, there it would be wrong to joke. Vladyka is a bishop among bishops.'"
When Fr. Alexis was in really poor health, he wrote a will concerning his burial. He said that there should be no speeches, and that they should read out what he had written. And he not only asked, but besought his Eminence Theodore to celebrate the Liturgy and the rite of burial, although Vladyka had been arrested on March 14, 1923. And the Lord heard the prayer of his faithful servant. Vladyka Theodore was released on June 7/20 (according to another source, June 8), 1923, and on June 15 he buried Fr. Alexis in accordance with his desire. At the burial there arrived Patriarch Tikhon, who had also just been released from prison.
Archbishop Leontius of Chile, who stayed in the Danilov monastery during this period, recalls: "The whole Orthodox episcopate and people venerated him [Vladyka Theodore] for his principled, uncompromising and straight position in relation to Soviet power. He considered that until the Orthodox Church received the right to a truly free existence, there could be no negotiations with the Bolsheviks. The authorities were only deceiving them, they would fulfil none of their promises, but would, on the contrary, turn everything to the harm of the Church. Therefore it would be better for his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon to sit in prison and die there, than to conduct negotiations with the Bolsheviks, because concessions could lead, eventually, to the gradual liquidation of the Orthodox Church and would disturb everyone, both in Russia and, especially, abroad. [He said this] at a time when his Holiness the Patriarch had been released from prison. Archbishop Theodore honoured and pitied his Holiness, but was in opposition to him. In spite of the persistent request of his Holiness that he take part in the administration of the patriarchate, he refused.
"He did not receive those bishops who had discredited themselves in relation to the 'Living Church'. He had little faith in their repentance. Only firm bishops were received in the Danilov monastery, and lived there often. Sometimes there were as many as ten or more. All those who had been released from prison or were returning from exile found refuge there. The brotherhood consisted of principled and highly cultured people. Not a few of them became confessor-bishops. The strict spiritual school of Vladyka Theodore left a special imprint on the monastery. With the exception of two novices the whole brotherhood of the Danilov monastery carried their confessing cross in a staunch and worthy manner. In those years the monastery churches of the Danilov, Donskoy and Simonov monasteries were always full of people. As were the parish churches. But one could already feel that this situation was coming to an end... And when his Holiness came out of prison the arrests of bishops did not cease."
On coming out of prison, in the summer of 1923, the patriarch convened a Council of Bishops, known as "the Little Council", in the St. Michael's church of the Donskoy monastery. As we read in Gubonin's The Acts of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon: "'The Little Council' took place in connection with some bishops' raising the question of the expediency of the patriarch's administering the Church after his release from prison, since he was due to appear as a defendant in the civil courts. Reasons were produced in favour of his being kept away from the administration until the trial."
Moreover, one of the bishops claimed that his Holiness had compromised himself as head of the Church by showing himself incapable of averting in a timely manner the appearance of the renovationist rebellion and by allowing this catastrophic disintegration of the Russian Church.
However, several of the "Danilovite" hierarchs at the Council expressed themselves clearly and forcefully in defence of the patriarch, declaring that his activity had been blameless and without spot. As a result, the rebellion against the patriarch was suppressed, and the Council officially declared its filial obedience and gratitude to his Holiness for the burdens he had undertaken for the Church. Moreover, he was asked not to abandon his post, but to continue bearing the cross of leadership.
Later the patriarch sent a letter to Bishop Theodore thanking him for the line the "Danilovite" bishops had taken at the Council.
But the pressure on the patriarch to make concessions continued, even from those bishops closest to him. Thus in Moscow in August, 1923, his assistant, Bishop Hilarion, expressed the following pro-Soviet sentiments: "A change of landmarks is taking place. The Church is also changing the landmarks. She has definitely cut herself away from the counter-revolution and welcomes the new forms of Soviet construction."
It was inevitable that another confrontation would soon take place between the "left wing" of the Patriarchal Church, represented by Bishop Hilarion and Archbishop Seraphim (Alexandrov), and the "right wing" represented by Vladyka Theodore. The confrontation duly took place when the patriarch convened a meeting to discuss a renovationist proposal for the re-establishment of unity. The price the heretics demanded was the patriarch's voluntary abdication from his patriarchal rank...
"In spite of the insulting tone of the [renovationists'] epistle," writes Protopriest Vladislav Tsypkin, "the patriarch was ready to enter into negotiations with the renovationists for the sake of the salvation of those who had gone astray and church peace. In this he was supported by the Temporary Patriarchal Synod. Archbishops Seraphim (Alexandrov), Tikhon (Obolensky) and Hilarion (Troitsky) opened negotiations with the pseudo-metropolitan Eudocimus concerning the conditions for the restoration of church unity. [But] the former rector of the Moscow Theological Academy and superior of the Danilov monastery, Archbishop Theodore of Volokolamsk, was decisively opposed to such negotiations...
"At the end of September, 1923, 27 Orthodox bishops met in the Donskoy monastery to discuss the results of the negotiations with the pseudo-metropolitan Eudocimus concerning the dissolution of the schism. Archbishop Theodore did not appear at the meeting, but many of his supporters who believed as he did participated in it..."
Bishop Gervasius of Kursk wrote about this Council: "At the end of his short report, Archbishop Seraphim (Alexandrov) remarked that it would be very desirable to have the presence of Archbishop Theodore (Pozdeyevsky) at the meeting, since he was a learned bishop who was popular in Moscow. An official invitation was given to the archbishop, but he did not reply and did not appear himself at the assembly. But if Archbishop Theodore was not there, his fervent supporters and admirers were. Thus Bishop Ambrose, formerly of Vinnitsa, a vicariate of Podolsk [and in 1923 bishop of Podolsk and Bratslav], who admired and held the same views as Archbishop Theodore, gave a speech which touched on the essence of Archbishop Seraphim's report. He began his speech approximately as follows: 'I am surprised why you, your Eminence, should call Eudocimus a metropolitan. Do you recognize him to be a lawful hierarch?' A secret ballot was taken on the project for reconciliation and union with the renovationists, and by a majority of votes the project was defeated and the assembly was dissolved."
Bishop Gervasius continues: "Archbishop Theodore lived at that time, as was well known, in the Danilov monastery, which was the residence of several extremely conservative and staunch bishops of the school of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Bishop Pachomius and others. Constant visitors at the monastery included Archbishop Seraphim (Samoilovich) of Uglich [the future hieromartyr], Archbishop Gury (Stepanov) and Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov)... Archbishop Theodore severely criticized Bishop Hilarion and told me that he would destroy Patriarch Tikhon and the Church, and that in the patriarch was all salvation. If there were no Patriarch Tikhon, then the authorities would abolish the patriarchate completely, and without the patriarchate there would be disaster for the Church..."
Although the patriarch jokingly called the "Danilovites" "the clandestine Synod", he continued to express his warm appreciation for their stand. Thus in October, 1923, he offered Vladyka Theodore the see of Petrograd with promotion to the rank of archbishop. However, Vladyka Theodore declined this offer, preferring to remain within the boundaries of the Moscow diocese. The Patriarch showed his appreciation of Vladyka in another way. He placed his will in an envelope and wrote on it: "In the case of my death or lengthy imprisonment I ask that this envelope be handed to the superior of the Danilov monastery Archbishop Theodore (Pozdeyevsky) immediately he asks for it". This showed that Vladyka knew about the will. The envelope still exists.
When the Russian Church briefly accepted the new calendar, Archbishop Theodore immediately broke communion with the Patriarch, declaring that the new calendar was uncanonical. So when the brothers of the monastery served with the patriarch, Vladyka sent them penances from prison, and the serving brothers made many prostrations in front of the reliquary of St. Daniel of Moscow. But when, eight months later, the Church calendar was returned, a reconciliation took place and the patriarch gave Vladyka a set of vestments as a sign of their unity. The Patriarch considered the Danilov brotherhood to be, not simply an opposition, but "my Synod", and when important questions of Church life arose, he would consult with Archbishop Theodore. He said of the Danilov brotherhood that they were more Tikhonites than Patriarch Tikhon himself.
From the autumn of 1923, renovationism began to decline sharply. And when Patriarch Tikhon came to the Danilov monastery on August 30 / September 12, 1924 to celebrate the feast of the holy Prince Daniel of Moscow for the last time before his martyrdom in the following year, the rollcall of bishops who were invited to concelebrate with him by Archbishop Theodore read like a list of all the major confessing bishops who were in freedom at that time: Metropolitan Peter (Polyansky) of Krutitsa, Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov) of Leningrad, Archbishop Procopius (Titov) of Odessa and the Chersonese, Bishop Hilarion (Troitsky), vicar of the Moscow diocese, Bishop Valerian (Rudich) of Smolensk, Bishop Parthenius (Bryanskikh) of Ananyev, vicar of the Odessa diocese, Bishop Damascene (Tsedrik) of Glukhov, vicar of the Chernigov diocese, Bishop Ignatius (Sadkovsky) of Belev, vicar of the Tula diocese, Bishop Ambrose (Polyansky) of Vinnitsa, and other bishops.
The growing strength of the Church, refined by persecutions, is indicated by the words of E. Lopeshanskaya: "The Church was becoming a state within the state... The prestige and authority of the imprisoned and persecuted clergy was immeasurably higher than that of the clergy under the tsars." Only betrayal on the part of the first hierarch could threaten the Church - and that only if the rest of the Church continued to recognize his authority...
The Struggle against Sergianism (1924-1930)
On April 16, 1924, according to Russian Central Government archives, Vladyka Theodore was arrested again "for anti-Soviet agitation", and was imprisoned in Butyrki prison in Moscow. He was released on October 18 and after agreeing not to leave the city. On December 15, 1924 he was arrested again, and on June 19, 1925 he was condemned according to articles 59 (relations with foreign states) and 73 (the spreading of false rumours and unsubstantiated information for counter-revolutionary purposes) to three years' exile in Kazakhstan. From 1925, according to one source, he no longer lived in Moscow. It seems that he rarely came out of prison. In the protocol of his interrogation on July 25, 1937, it is mentioned that between 1920 and 1924 he was arrested twice, was condemned for counter-revolutionary activity three times, and was in concentration camp and exile from 1925. Vladyka Theodore continued to rule his monastery from prison by means of messengers and letters.
Seeing the defeat of renovationism, the "Soviet Orthodox Church Mark I", the Bolsheviks started to plan the creation of a "Soviet Orthodox Church Mark II" which would be more canonical in appearance and therefore more likely to attract the masses of the people. The preparations for this new and more subtle deception began with the imprisonment and attempted "working over" of some of the most prominent hierarchs. Thus in 1924 Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan, and both Archbishop Hilarion and Vladyka Theodore, the leaders of the "left" and "right" wings of the Patriarchal Church respectively, were imprisoned or exiled. Later, after the martyric death of the patriarch in March, 1925, it was the turn of Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa, the patriarchal locum tenens, to suffer this treatment. And after him, his deputies Metropolitan Joseph of Leningrad, Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich and Metropolitan Sergius of Nizhni-Novgorod.
Finally, the Bolsheviks attained their goal with Metropolitan Sergius... In July, 1927, he issued a scandalously pro-Soviet and neo-renovationist "declaration", which placed the Church in more or less unconditional submission to the militantly atheist government. Immediately the Church split along the lines that had been foreshadowed by the quarrels of the 1923 Councils. Thus Archbishop Hilarion supported Sergius, becoming the leader of the sergianist bishops in the Solovki concentration camps; while Vladyka Theodore became an opponent of Metropolitan Sergius and a leader of those who broke communion with him.
The following document has been attributed both to Archbishop Hilarion and, with much greater probability, to Vladyka Theodore, who would in any case have supported the views expressed in it wholeheartedly.
The author begins by quoting some of his notes of March 3/16, 1924: "Perhaps in a short while we shall find ourselves a tiny island in an ocean of profanity... The scenario of church relations can undergo a change like in a kaleidoscope. The renovationists may rise as the ruling 'Church Party' in Russia and face very limited opposition if the overt renovationists and covert traitors will find a modus vivendi with each other and jointly disguise themselves under the cover of canonicity."
The next paragraph, he writes, is from his notes of January 14/27, 1925: "The difficulty of our time for an Orthodox is... that the contemporary life of the Church demands of him a high spiritual self-discipline in personal life. He cannot rely on guidance from the official pastors (bishops and presbyters). The church canons cannot be formally applied to problems arising in church life. Altogether, a juridical attitude is insufficient; it is necessary to have a spiritual intuition to show the way of Christ among the multitude of paths made by wolves in sheep's clothing. Life has posed questions that can be solved in a truly churchly manner only by bypassing mores, forms, regulations and being led by senses trained to recognize virtue from evil. Otherwise it is easy to defile the sacredness of one's soul and to allow one's conscience to disintegrate through a legalistically regulated reconciliation with fraud and profanity, brought into the Church by the bishops themselves. By means of laws it is possible to reconcile oneself even with the devil."
This is followed by his comments of October 22 / November 4, 1927: "Aren't the latest events a confirmation of the above premonitions? Hasn't the horror that the soul sensed already two to three years ago come so close to us after Metropolitan Sergius' return to administer the Church? Hasn't Sergius' declaration, which has caused varied and fully justified negative reactions, thrown the church organization, headed by him, into the loathsome, adulterous embraces of the atheistic, blasphemous and Christomachistic power, and hasn't it introduced a frightening profanity into the bosom of our Church? Please note that this declaration appeared not from the hands of the schismatic renovationists... [it came] from a canonical, lawful, apparently Orthodox hierarch. The main assertions of the declaration are based on scriptural texts (although, occasionally, with the help of their misinterpretation...) and on the historical experience of the ancient Church, as if it were similar to the current one. On the other hand, the declaration hopes to quench the essential thirst of believers exhausted by persecutions, for it promises them peace and quiet. And hence multitudes, especially from the clerical ranks, are sympathetically responding to the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod.
"This symphony between the theomachistic power and the regular Orthodox hierarchy has already produced some 'blessings': some bishops (although not the best ones and not the most 'guilty' ones) are returning from exile (not from a very distant one, however) and are being appointed to dioceses (not to the same ones from they had been deported, however);... Metropolitan Sergius has a Synod (which is more like the office of the Over-Procurator) which consists of regular hierarchs (alas, with questionable reputations owing to their longtime and solid cooperation with the GPU...); Metropolitan Sergius' name is being elevated as that of the captain of the Church, but, alas, this name is but a forgery, because the real master of the destiny of the Russian Church and her bishops, both those in positions as well as the persecuted ones... is the current 'Overprocurator' of the Russian Orthodox Church, Eugene A. Tuchkov.
We confidently recommend our web service provider, Orthodox Internet Services: excellent personal customer service, a fast and reliable server, excellent spam filtering, and an easy to use comprehensive control panel.