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Sixteenth Century

Russia during the Reign of Ivan the Terrible

In Rus­sia, in the six­teenth cen­tu­ry, the “third Rome” the­o­ry became apo­lit­i­cal real­i­ty. The monk Philotheus of Pskov informed the Mus­covite Tsar Basil III (1505–1533) of his vision based on the book of Daniel that the Russ­ian tsar­dom was to be the final earth­ly reign of God’s Peo­ple. The first Rome had fall­en through heresy. The sec­ond Rome, Con­stan­tino­ple, had fall­en through sin. The third Rome, Moscow, was stand­ing. There was to be no fourth Rome.

Tsar Ivan III the Ter­ri­ble (1533–1584) estab­lished his reign on this foun­da­tion. He was crowned tsar in 1547 as the suc­ces­sor to the Byzan­tine emper­or. He ruth­less­ly per­se­cut­ed his ene­mies as he sub­ject­ed both church and state to his per­son­al con­trol. Among Ivan’s many vic­tims was Met­ro­pol­i­tan Philip of Moscow. He was stran­gled by the tsar’s hench­men in 1568 for his open oppo­si­tion to the actions of the mad ruler. Philip has since been can­on­ized by the Church as a saint.

In 1547–1549 the Church of Rus­sia for­mal­ly can­on­ized many saints from dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, uti­liz­ing the nation­al ven­er­a­tion of these holy peo­ple — who were pre­vi­ous­ly hon­ored only local­ly — as a means toward nation­al uni­fi­ca­tion. In 1551, the Coun­cil of a Hun­dred Chap­ters — the Stoglav Sobor — fur­ther assert­ed the suprema­cy of Russ­ian Ortho­doxy over the oth­er East­ern Ortho­dox churches.

After the Russ­ian defeat of the Turks in Kazan in 1551, Ivan built the famous Church of St. Basil in the Moscow krem­lin in hon­or of St Basil, the Mosocw fool for Christ (d.1552). This church build­ing is known for its com­bi­na­tion of Chris­t­ian and Ori­en­tal styles.

Dur­ing the ear­ly part of Ivan’s reign his spir­i­tu­al father was the priest Sylvester. Many of Ivan’s ear­ly reforms were guid­ed by this sim­ple pas­tor. Sylvester was the main con­trib­u­tor to a book called Domostroi or Home-builder which taught Russ­ian Chris­t­ian fam­i­lies how they should arrange their lives accord­ing to the rit­u­al and eth­i­cal prac­tices of the Ortho­dox Church. The Domostroi was a very pop­u­lar book which influ­enced gen­er­a­tions of Russ­ian fam­i­lies. Ivan exiled Sylvester in 1559.

Also dur­ing Ivan the Terrible’s reign, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Makarii of Moscow (1542–1563) wrote twelve vol­umes called Month­ly Read­ings. It was a vast col­lec­tion of com­men­taries on the Bible, the lives of the saints, ser­mons, and oth­er mate­r­i­al for spir­i­tu­al read­ing. At this time, the “non-pos­ses­sor” Saint Max­im the Greek (d.1556) was impris­oned and tor­tured for his attempts to revise and cor­rect the litur­gi­cal books of the Russ­ian Church. Saint Gury (d.1563), the bish­op of Kazan, was car­ry­ing on his mis­sion among the Siber­ian tribes.

Russia during the Reign of Theodore

Dur­ing the reign of Ivan’s son, Theodore, the Patri­arch of Con­stan­tino­ple, Jere­mi­ah II, came to Moscow in quest of aid. The patri­ar­chal church of Con­stan­tino­ple was under the pow­er of the Turks. So, under the obvi­ous pres­sures of that sit­u­a­tion, the patri­arch rec­og­nized the Mus­covite bish­op, Job, as the first Patri­arch of All Rus­sia in 1589. The instal­la­tion doc­u­ment of the new patri­arch was almost a rep­e­ti­tion of the proph­esy of Philotheus about Moscow as the third Rome. Thus the the­o­ry, which had become prac­tice under Ivan III, was now offi­cial­ly affirmed by the high­est prelate in the Ortho­dox Church. In 1593 the Russ­ian Church received the approval of its sta­tus as a patri­ar­chate from the bish­ops of Jerusalem, Alexan­dria, and Anti­och. Thus, it was offi­cial­ly rec­og­nized as the fifth in hon­or among the Ortho­dox patriarchates.

The Union of Brest-Litovsk

The six­teenth cen­tu­ry saw the devel­op­ment of the Pol­ish-Lithuan­ian king­dom on the West­ern bound­ary of Rus­sia. By 1569 Poland and Lithua­nia had become one under Sigis­mund. The king­dom had tak­en seg­ments of the Russ­ian lands as far east as Kiev — ter­ri­to­ry pop­u­lat­ed almost exclu­sive­ly by Ortho­dox Chris­tians. Jesuits had entered this ter­ri­to­ry ear­li­er, bring­ing Latin learn­ing and prac­tices. The result was the Union of Brest-Litovsk in 1596 through which the Ortho­dox bish­ops of the area effect­ed a union with the Roman Church on the foun­da­tions agreed to in Flo­rence a cen­tu­ry ear­li­er. The rites and cus­toms of the Church for the mass­es of Ortho­dox faith­ful tak­en into the “unia” remained the same. The eccle­si­as­ti­cal hier­ar­chy, cler­i­cal, and aca­d­e­m­ic lead­er­ship of the Church was total­ly sub­ject­ed to the Latin dis­ci­pline and doc­trine of the Roman papa­cy. This union of 1596 remained in effect in the ter­ri­to­ries which have con­tin­ued to be ruled by non-Ortho­dox gov­ern­ments such as Poland, Aus­tro-Hun­gary, and Czecho­slo­va­kia. From its incep­tion, the uni­ate move­ment was always con­front­ed with sub­stan­tial oppo­si­tion. Opposers were main­ly Ortho­dox lay­men who were orga­nized into broth­er­hoods and blessed by Patri­arch Jere­mi­ah of Con­stan­tino­ple to defend the Ortho­dox faith, as ear­ly as 1588. In the begin­ning the anti-uni­ate move­ment was helped by the use of the print­ing press of Ivan Fedorov. This man was expelled from Mus­covy with his “dia­bol­i­cal inven­tion” by Ivan III.

The East

In the sec­ond half of the six­teenth cen­tu­ry, the East­ern patri­archs were in con­tact with the Protes­tant reform­ers in the West. Jos­aphat II (1551–1565) sent rep­re­sen­ta­tives to Wit­ten­berg and Tub­in­gen. They returned high­ly dis­pleased with what they found. Jere­mi­ah II, after a care­ful study of the Augs­burg Con­fes­sion â?? which was sent to him for his inspec­tion â?? sound­ly declared the Luther­an teach­ings to be heretical.

Dur­ing this same peri­od, Saints George and John the New (1526) were added to the Church’s list of saints for their mar­tyr­dom under the Moslems. Oth­er Greek saints at this time were Saint Vis­sar­i­on, Bish­op of Laris­sa (d.1541) and Saint Philoth­eas of Athens (d.1589).

The West and the Protestant Reformation

The West in the six­teenth cen­tu­ry went through the Protes­tant ref­or­ma­tion and the counter-ref­or­ma­tion of the Roman Church. Mar­tin Luther (d.1545), John Calvin (d.1564) and Ulrich Zwingli (d.1545) led the ref­or­ma­tion move­ment on the Euro­pean con­ti­nent. They attacked the prac­ti­cal abus­es of the Roman Church as well as its offi­cial teach­ings. King Hen­ry VIII found­ed the Angli­can Church by the Act of Suprema­cy in 1534 and John Knox (d.1572) brought the Calvin­ist faith to Scotland.

The Roman Church held the Coun­cil of Trent (1561–1563) which offi­cial­ly for­mu­lat­ed the doc­trines of pur­ga­to­ry, indul­gences, tran­sub­stan­ti­a­tion of bread and wine in the eucharist and oth­er posi­tions attacked and denied by the Protes­tants. The Protes­tant posi­tion is based on the doc­trine of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion by grace through faith alone. The Bible is the sole church­ly author­i­ty, inter­pret­ed direct­ly by each believ­er under the inspi­ra­tion of God. The sacra­men­tal life of the Church is reduced to Bap­tism and the Lord’s Sup­per, which is under­stood pri­mar­i­ly as a memo­r­i­al meal, in no sense a sac­ri­fice. The Coun­cil of Trent rein­forced the doc­trines of the suprema­cy of the pope of Rome and the author­i­ty of the church hier­ar­chy. Both these doc­trines were main tar­gets of the Protes­tant attack.

The West and the Counter-reformation

The Roman counter-ref­or­ma­tion was led by the Jesuits. The Soci­ety of Jesus was found­ed in 1534 by Ignatius of Loy­ola (d.1556) for the spe­cif­ic pur­pose of defend­ing the Roman papa­cy. Fran­cis Xavier (d.1552) was the famous Jesuit mis­sion­ary who reached the Far East dur­ing this peri­od. The Dutch Jesuit, Peter Can­i­sius (d.1597) led the counter-ref­or­ma­tion in Ger­many, writ­ing his famous Cat­e­chism which became a stan­dard text of post-ref­or­ma­tion Catholicism.

In Spain the mys­ti­cal writ­ers, Tere­sa of Avi­la (d.1582) and John of the Cross (d.1591) were lead­ing the reform of the reli­gious life of the Roman Church. In Gene­va, the Roman bish­op of the city, Fran­cis de Sales (d.1622) was writ­ing his works about the spir­i­tu­al life. Dur­ing this same time the artist Tit­ian (d.1576) was paint­ing and the musi­cian Palest­ri­na (d.1594) was pro­duc­ing his grandiose musi­cal com­po­si­tions which were used in the Roman Church.