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Seventeenth Century

Russia: Time of Troubles

In the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry Rus­sia entered the “time of trou­bles.” Boris Godonov, who ruled from 1598, died in 1605. Basil Shuiskii ruled until 1610 when a Pol­ish tsar was crowned. Dur­ing this time of polit­i­cal and social upheaval the Poles seized con­trol of the coun­try. They cap­tured Moscow and the monastery of St. Sergius. Patri­arch Ger­mo­gen, the nation­al leader, was impris­oned and starved to death in 1612, lat­er being can­on­ized a saint. From the end of the reign of Ivan III Rus­sia was besieged with polit­i­cal tur­moil, famine, and nation­al dis­as­ter. Saint Juliana Ossorgine (d.1604) was glo­ri­fied by the Church at her can­on­iza­tion for her com­pas­sion­ate love and care of the suf­fer­ing people.

Russia: The Old Believer Schism

The “time of trou­bles” was fol­lowed in north­ern Rus­sia by the Old Believ­er Schism. Michael Romanov (d.1645) was crowned tsar in 1613. His father Phi­laret (d.1633) became the patri­arch of the church and the country’s actu­al ruler in 1619. From 1645–1676 Alex­is Romanov, a most devout and pious man, ruled as tsar. In 1652 Alex­is chose the extreme­ly pop­u­lar and tal­ent­ed met­ro­pol­i­tan of Nov­gorod, Nikon, to be patri­arch of the Russ­ian Church. Nikon refused the posi­tion at first. He accept­ed when he received the for­mal pledge of the lead­ers of church and state that they would give unwa­ver­ing obe­di­ence to the gospels, the canons, the fathers of the Church, and to him per­son­al­ly as the “chief pas­tor and supreme father” of the Russ­ian Church. Dur­ing Great Lent in 1653 Nikon began his reforms of church prac­tices which were to rend asun­der both church and nation.

The reforms of Nikon were rea­son­able and un-rev­o­lu­tion­ary by mod­ern stan­dards. They called for the adjust­ment of the Russ­ian litur­gi­cal prac­tices to con­form with those of the oth­er East­ern Ortho­dox Church­es. They called for cor­rec­tions in the word­ing and spelling of litur­gi­cal texts. Con­crete­ly this reform meant that the Rus­sians would hence­forth cross them­selves with three fin­gers instead of two, sing “alleluia” three times dur­ing psalmody instead of twice, and make oth­er sim­i­lar changes. In the Rus­sia of Nikon’s time such reforms — which appear slight today — were explo­sive. They direct­ly denied the “third Rome” the­o­ry and prac­tice of the Russ­ian church and state. They put Russ­ian Ortho­doxy in sub­ju­ga­tion to the East­ern patri­ar­chates which were present­ly suf­fer­ing under the Turks because of their sins (accord­ing to Russ­ian mentality).

In 1657 the tsar Alex­is returned from the fight­ing on the Pol­ish front to find his church and nation in chaos. The oppo­si­tion to Nikon was led by parish priests who them­selves were con­sid­ered “reform­ers” because they had been call­ing for a return among the peo­ple to strict obe­di­ence to the tra­di­tion­al rites and cus­toms of the Russ­ian Church. Nikon, who act­ed as the tsar’s regent in his absence, felt con­fi­dent that Alex­is would sup­port his actions by pun­ish­ing those who were dis­obe­di­ent to him as “chief pas­tor and supreme father” of the Russ­ian Church. The tsar, how­ev­er, was not pleased with Nikon’s actions. His open state­ment of dis­plea­sure caused the patri­arch to resign in 1658 after pub­licly rebuk­ing the tsar. From that time until 1666 Rus­sia had no act­ing patriarch.

Alex­is tried to make up with Nikon, but to no avail. In 1666 the East­ern patri­archs were con­sult­ed. A coun­cil was called in Moscow, presided over by the bish­ops of Alexan­dria and Anti­och. It was engi­neered by the unscrupu­lous Met­ro­pol­i­tan of Gaza, Paisios Lig­arides. The coun­cil first excom­mu­ni­cat­ed the oppo­nents of Nikon’s reforms — sev­er­al mil­lion believ­ers — from the Church. These oppo­nents of Nikon, led by the Arch­priest Avvacum, were called the Old Believ­ers or Old Rit­u­al­ists. The coun­cil then unfrocked Nikon for desert­ing his office and for show­ing dis­re­spect to the tsar, The coun­cil offi­cial­ly refut­ed the Coun­cil of a Hun­dred Chap­ters which was held in 1551 — the most ven­er­at­ed of Russ­ian Church coun­cils. Thus the coun­cil of 1666–1667 for­mal­ly renounced the “third Rome” the­o­ry and the assumed suprema­cy of Russ­ian Ortho­doxy over all oth­er churches.

Nikon remained under arrest until he died in 1681. Although he nev­er changed his posi­tion and nev­er yield­ed his oppo­si­tion to the coun­cil of 1666–1667, he was buried in the church with full patri­archial dig­ni­ty. The oppo­nents of Nikon, the dis­sent­ing Old Believ­ers, reject­ed the coun­cil and went into schism with the offi­cial Russ­ian Church. Their lead­ers, such as Avvacum, were sought out and vio­lent­ly per­se­cut­ed. They were sent into exile and harsh labor, a con­di­tion which endeared them to the mass­es of peo­ple who shared their rig­or­ous, con­ser­v­a­tive, unyield­ing spir­it. Arch­priest Avvacum was burned alive with three of his sup­port­ers in 1682 for the “great blas­phemies… uttered against the tsar and his house­hold.” His auto­bi­og­ra­phy has become a clas­sic of Russ­ian literature.

In 1682 Peter the Great became tsar. His extreme and vio­lent attempts to west­ern­ize Rus­sia, and his fierce oppo­si­tion to tra­di­tion­al Russ­ian ways caused the dis­senters to think of him as the Anti-Christ. The Old Believ­ers, in their desire to pre­serve the pure Ortho­dox faith and rit­u­als of Rus­sia, suc­ceed­ed in pre­serv­ing ancient Russ­ian forms of iconog­ra­phy and litur­gi­cal chant which oth­er­wise would like­ly have been lost in history.

The Unia

In the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, in the south of Rus­sia, the unia con­tin­ued in force, although large amounts of ter­ri­to­ry had been won back by the Rus­sians. The lay broth­er­hoods in the Ukraine and Gali­cia served Ortho­doxy well dur­ing this time by their absolute rejec­tion of the uni­ate move­ment. Among these lay lead­ers were Con­stan­tine Ostrozh­skii (d.1608) and Mileti Smotrit­skii who wrote his Lamen­ta­tions of the East­ern Church in 1610.

Peter Moglia

In 1615 the the­o­log­i­cal acad­e­my of Kiev was found­ed. In 1620 Theo­phanes, the Patri­arch of Jerusalem, con­se­crat­ed sev­en bish­ops for the Ortho­dox in secret from the gov­ern­ment. In 1633 Wla­dys­law IV, the suc­ces­sor to Sigis­mund, gave per­mis­sion for an Ortho­dox met­ro­pol­i­tan of Kiev. Peter Mogi­la (d.1647), the lead­ing man of the Kiev the­o­log­i­cal school, was cho­sen. Mogi­la was fierce­ly anti-Roman but he was trained in Latin schools and had a deep respect for Latin scholas­tic learn­ing. Through his many works, which in- clud­ed a Slav­ic trans­la­tion of the cat­e­chism of the Jesuit Can­i­sius and a priest’s Ser­vice book, Latin influ­ences entered the Ortho­dox Church in doc­tri­nal for­mu­la­tion and litur­gi­cal prac­tices. Mogila’s works were judged accept­able by the Ortho­dox bish­ops in a coun­cil in Kiev (1640) and again in Jassy, in Mol­davia (1643). Nev­er­the­less, togeth­er with the forced west­ern­iza­tion of Peter the Great’s poli­cies, they were a pri­ma­ry cause for almost two hun­dred years of cap­tiv­i­ty to West­ern influ­ences in the the­ol­o­gy and piety of the Ortho­dox people.

Cyril Lukaris

Cyril Lukaris (d.1638) served as patri­arch of Alexan­dria and patri­arch of Con­stan­tino­ple on sev­en dif­fer­ent occa­sions under the Turks before they final­ly drowned him. His “con­fes­sion of faith” was forth­right­ly con­demned by the same church coun­cils in Kiev and Jassy which upheld the ortho­doxy of Peter Mogila’s cat­e­chism and ser­vice books. The “con­fes­sion” of Cyril was a thor­ough­ly Calvin­ist state­ment of faith. In 1662 a coun­cil of East­ern patri­archs in Jerusalem con­firmed the deci­sions of the coun­cil of Jassy, and pub­lished a “Con­fes­sion of Faith of the East­ern Patri­archs.”

The East

In the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, the Turks destroyed the inde­pen­dence of the Ser­bian and Bul­gar­i­an church­es. They sub­mit­ted them direct­ly to Con­stan­tino­ple thus estab­lish­ing the Greek “Pha­nari­ot” rule over the non- Greek Ortho­dox Chris­tians in the Turk­ish empire. At this time in Rus­sia, the bish­op Saint Dim­itri of Ros­tov (d.1709) pub­lished his spir­i­tu­al writ­ings which includ­ed a twelve-vol­ume edi­tion Of the Lives of the Saints. The holy abbot, Saint Job (d.1651) of the Pochaev monastery also lived at this time.

The West

In the West the nations were recov­er­ing from the reli­gious upheavals of the ref­or­ma­tion and counter-ref­or­ma­tion. Amer­i­ca was being set­tled by the reli­gious dis­senters from Eng­land: Puri­tans, Con­gre­ga­tion­al­ists, Bap­tists, and Quak­ers who were mem­bers of the Soci­ety of Friends found­ed by George Fox (d.1691), In 1611 in Eng­land, the King James Ver­sion of the Bible was pub­lished. The Roman Church of this time was trou­bled by the move­ment of Jansenism, the doc­trine which held that grace is giv­en only to the elect of God. At this time in France, Vin­cent de Paul (d.1660) found­ed his order ded­i­cat­ed to the works of char­i­ty and ser­vice to the poor and sick.