8.8.08 In memory of Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Live Not By Lies
by Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky, Parma OH
I write in honor of the late great prophet of God, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who follows in the wake of St. Elijah the holy prophet and St. John the Baptist. Like them he was not well received by many of his own people because he stood for truth in all places at all times.
In tribute to that great inspiration and Orthodox Christian I offer excerpts from the last words written from his native soil before the secret police broke into his apartment and arrested him. The next day he was exiled into West Germany:
"The circle—is it closed?
And is there really no way out?
And is there only one thing left to do, to wait without taking action?
Maybe something will happen by itself?
It will never happen as long as we acknowledge, extol and strengthen—and do not sever ourselves from—the most perceptible of its aspects: Lies… and the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. The lies conceal everything; the lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me.
Live Not By Lies."
His message left when he was expelled from his mother Russia for daring to defy the government formed on deception can be condensed thus:
Do not lie. Do not pander to the liar.
Do not accept the lie. Do not take part in the lie.
I cannot help but apply this simple set of rules to our suffering Orthodox Church in America as we approach the All American Council this November in Pittsburgh. We had been lied to for more than a dozen years, but most of us only found out the truth after the past All American Council in Toronto, July 2005.
We had no way of knowing that it was a charade, an organized set-up designed to deceive the delegates and the Church throughout the continent, and it was aided and abetted by the Holy Synod in collusion with the chancery and administration located in Syosset, NY.
To all like myself raised to love, honor and obey the clergy, especially the hierarchy, it came as a shock of disbelief. How could it be? The evidence offered by a former treasurer of the Church who exposed his awareness of the fraud perpetrated on the Church revealed that it began as early as 1999—could he be wrong?
No, Protodeacon Eric Wheeler proved to be quite correct. Despite the intimidation, refutation and finally expulsion from his office by the Metropolitan supported by the entire Holy Synod, everything which he had exposed regarding the manipulation of funds designed for other purposes are discovered to be accurate. He, for one, stands in the line behind such heroes of truth as Solzhenitsyn. And he has yet to be recognized, much less praised or honored for his commitment to truth. In fact, it was the bishops themselves who joined in support of the Metropolitan Herman in chastising and condemning Protodeacon Wheeler. It was the members of the Holy Synod who agreed upon and carried out a conspiracy of silence regarding all that they knew about the huge embezzlement of funds, and they have maintained that silence to this day. And to this day, even as we prepare for the All American Council in autumn, they have not relented or repented of their atrocious behavior in this regard. Still they deny, defy, stonewall and deceive the people of God by standing together in support of the lies they would have us accept and believe.
I can witness that following the breaking from their ranks of our Archbishop Job, and receiving their scorn and condemnation by his brave action, the extent of the embezzlement of Church funds was exposed - at least to the Metropolitan Council at their joint meeting with the Holy Synod. Much, but certainly not all of this, has been recorded on the web site www.Ocanews.org.
What’s to be done?
It’s rather simple, once we all live by the principles set forth by Solzhenitsyn: Do not lie, do not hide the lie, do not tolerate the lie or the liars, etc. To the credit of the Metropolitan Council they inaugurated a Commission to find out the facts. That Commission met for the first time at our parish of the Holy Trinity in Parma, Ohio. Six persons: Two hierarchs, two priests, and two lay persons. Our method for fact finding was rather obvious. We counted some three dozen ‘persons of interest,’ not necessarily accusing any of them of anything untoward, but merely to interview them, for all had something to do with the workings of the administration in one or another capacity during the period in question. We divided the group into six and set about getting in touch with them prior to our next meeting. The next morning at seven o’clock I received a phone call from Fr. Paul Kucynda, Treasurer of the Church, informing me that +Herman has forbidden us to interview any person at all. I realized then that this was all a sham, a mockery of justice and a travesty of truth. We communicated several times by teleconferences and had subsequent meetings, but it was clear that we were being strung along, any hope of fulfilling our mission impossible to complete. Four of our committee eventually resigned from the Commission in frustration.
My plea is to every clergy and lay delegate to the forthcoming All American Council: From now to then recite daily the opening prayer to the Holy Spirit: “O heavenly King,” and meditate on the phrase: “Spirit of truth.” Let that phrase invade your heart and motivate you to wrest the Holy Orthodox Church from the liars and return it to Christ Jesus, who called Himself “The Way, the Truth and the Life.”
Prof. Paul Meyendorff challenged the Synod of Bishops to ask each hierarch to submit to a referendum from his delegates and diocese if indeed they wish him to remain in office. The response: Silence. It implies that they fear such a vote of confidence, because they lack the conviction that they are in favor by their communicants: a silence that shouts indignation. They who stand on eagle rugs perceive to what extent they are loved, respected and admired. A silence that insists on their entitlement to the office of bishop regardless of the wishes of the people of God. A silence that defies truth.
What’s to be done to restore trust, honesty, purity, decency and integrity to our Holy Synod of bishops?
The first and most urgent need is to replace the Primate. That may be the only absolute necessity, since as it has been made evident, the others [except +Job] fall in line behind the Leader, probably waiting their turn to wear the white klobuk.
The next problem then becomes: Which of them will be the next Primate? Might it be that the Holy Spirit could lead them and us to elect somebody who is not in contention, a man who could have the proper spiritual, intellectual and academic qualities of leadership to take charge of the Synod, the administration and the Church in general? Such persons do exist and dwell incognito among us. I can think of one at least who spent years as a monk on Mt. Athos, is a graduate of an internationally renowned university with a Ph.D. and is a respected academic. The problem is to be accepted among those without such attributes.
To use the chandelier metaphor, one doesn’t screw a 100 watt bulb into the array of 25 watt bulbs. Nor would such a person with those credentials be welcomed by them. Unfortunately, even if by some miracle the body of delegates to an All American Council designed to elect the next Primate could come together and muster the two thirds of the votes to present to the Synod, they might just find or design some loophole to thwart the will of the people and elect their own candidate. For the last three elections, not a single one chosen by the Holy Synod had been the choice of the body of believers, and at each time the two thirds needed fell within only two dozen votes.
Whatever will be the outcome of the All American Council this autumn really only the Holy Trinity knows. We believe this: “If God is with us, who can stand against us?" We are Orthodox Christians. We “trust not in princes, sons of men” even if they are our leaders. We believe that the spirit of ‘sobornost’ is, or might just be, alive and active throughout the true Church.
Who dares predict the outcome? The Primate may resign, the Holy Synod may surprise us and take up the invitation to a plebiscite suggested by Prof. Paul Meyendorff. Or the greatest of all, not short of a miracle, the hierarchy of our church may collectively and individually do something truly Christian: repent, confess their lies, deceptions and all the rest, ask for God’s and the Church’s forgiveness, and lead us in a glorious celebration of restored unity through a service of mutual forgiveness.
Who knows? “With God all things are possible.”