Christian Church in Russia

With the entry of Christianity into Russia, the Eastern Orthodox Church began its service there. Bishops and priests who came to teach and baptize Russian people, were Greeks, of the Greek Ortho­dox Church. They acted in the name of their Church and brought the Russian people under ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Christian Church was undivided then.

As in the days of the Apostles the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2, 47) , the number of Chris­tians in Russia was increasing daily and the Church was growing in its work and influence on the life of the people. The progress of religious education, which was exclusively the work of the clergy, made it possible in time that many Russians were available for the service in the Church and replaced in time the Greek clergy.

The Church in Russia 'began its life and work under a Greek, Metropolitan Michael. as the First Bishop of the Russian Church, during the reign of St. Vladimir. But when the son of St. Vladimir, Yaroslav, the Wise, became the Grand Prince of Kiev, a Russian priest of Berestovo, the suburb of Kiev, pious Illarion, was chosen by the people, clergy and the Prince, to be the Metropolitan of Kiev, in 1054 A. D., was consecrated to this high calling by the Patriarch and since then mostly Russians occupied the Metropolitan See of Kiev and were the spiritual leaders of their people as well as the actual rulers of the church affairs in Russia, though still remaining under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Metro­politans were elected in Russia, but had to receive approval of such election and the consecration from the Patriarch. This order of the government of the Russian Church was in practice for nearly six centuries from the beginning and is known as the "Metropolitan period" of the Church.

During this period the Metropolitan See was occupied by many distinguished Hierarchs, who proved themselves to be noble leaders of the Russian people in their church and national affairs. Besides being true pastors of the flock intrusted to them, they exercised a great influence on the Princes and the courts of the country. They were peacemakers, protectors of the poor and oppressed, and were instrumental in bringing all Russian people under the one Ruling Prince and establishing one sovereignty throughout the Russian Land, the greatest Empire of its time. At the same time they zealously promoted the missionary work among the non-Russians, and soon the Christian faith embraced not only all Russian people but also many of the tribes that were living in Russia. Of the num­ber of worthy Hierarchs, the History points out the names of Metropolitans Peter, Alexis, Johan and Phillip. who are canonized by the Church for the saintly life they lived, as also the first Metro­politan of Russia. Michael.

In the XIIIth century Russia experienced the Tartars' invasion, mainly in its Southern and Central parts. Many cities were destroyed and Kiev, the capital of the country, with her magnificent churches of St. Sophia and St. Michael and the Lavra, suffered the most. Andrew Bogolubsky, then reigning Prince of Russia (1240) , was obliged to transfer his capital to a far northern part of the country and established it in the city of Vladimir on Kliazma. With the destruction of Kiev, the Metropolitan also transfered his See from there and partly lived in Galich. Carpathian region, partly in Vladi­mir. So did Metropolitan St. Cyril, but his successor. Metropolitan Maxim, preferred the city of Vlidimir for his permanent residence. Then Galician Prince Yuriy. desiring to have a Metropolitan for his southern domains, selected one pious and learned monk Peter from a monastery of his Principality of Volynia. and sent him to Constantinople to be consecrated by the Patriarch for a Metropolitan See in Galicia. At this time (1308) Metropolitan Maxim of Vladi­mir died and the Patriarch consecrated. Peter as the Metropolitan of all Russia.

Metropolitan Peter had a great power with the Tartar Khan Uzbek and received from him many privileges for the Church and clergy. The wisest act of his service to the Church and the country was a transfer of the Metropolitan See from the city of Vladimir to the city of Moscow in 1325. Since then this insignificant place began to grow and became the capital of Russia and Prince Ivan (John) Kalita became the Grand Prince. It was the beginning of the United Russia, with Moscow as its capital. The Church of Assumption, historical Cathedral of Moscow, and the monument of the Russian Unity was started by Prince Ivan during the life time of Metropolitan Peter. Metropolitan Alexis succeeded Metro­politan Theognost, who was a Greek, and gave to the Church and the State an immeasurable service that had a great influence on the future of Russia. Being of noble birth and highly educated, St. Alexis was gifted also with a practical wisdom that made him a national figure in the History of Russia. From the city of Vladimir, where he was Bishop, Metropolitan Alexis was called to Moscow in the most trying times. For his pious life he was held in great respect not only by Russians but by the Tartan as well. When Taidula, wife of Khan, took sick and became blind, St. Alexis was called to Orda (place of Khan's residence) and after his prayers Taidula recovered and her sight was restored. His influence on the Tartars became of such an importance that the Church and the country much benefited by it: in general, it enjoyed peace and received many new grants and privileges during his life. Metro­politan Alexis saved the union of Russia when he declined to move to Suzdal, where the Grand Prince was for a time, but remained in Moscow and took care of the little Prince Dimitry, who later became Grand Prince, and is known in Russian History as the Conqueror of the Tartars, "Dimitry Donskoy." Here the services of Metropolitan Alexis were of a historical importance.

After Metropolitan Fotiy, a Greek, was Metropolitan Jonah, who showed the same high qualities of character and zeal in his service to the Church and the country as the Metropolitans Peter and Alexis, and his name went into History with glory. He was the first Metropolitan who received his right to this See from the Council of Russian Bishops and not from the Patriarch of Con­stantinople, and began the line of Metropolitans installed by the Bishops of the Russian Church, which marked a complete inde­pendence of the Church of Russia from the Patriarch of Constanti­nople in 1448 A. D.

Metropolitan Philip occupied the Metropolitan See during the reign of John, the Terrible, and made a firm stand for the rights of the Church and for the well being of the people as against the terror and abuses which were practiced then by the Czar's guards, oprichniki. St. Philip was imprisoned in Otroch monastery and murdered there by one of the oprichniki, Maluta Skuratov. He stands in the Church History as a fearless defender of the truth and a protector of the poor and abused, who gave his life for them and his stand for the order and law in the Church and State, is regarded as a noble example of the service given by the Metropolitans to the upbuilding of Russia. With his death ends the glorious period of the metropolitan rule of the Church, after which the "Patriarchal period" came in its history.

The Council of all Eastern Patriarchs decreed to grant to the Russian Orthodox Church equal rights and privileges in its self- governing as the other Churches of the East were exercising and that the first Bishop of the Russian Church should possess the title of Patriarch. This change was justified by the growth of the Russian Church and the assistance it was rendering to the Church



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