Dear Readers: A long time supporter of the Mystagogy Resource Center has informed me that they would like to donate $3000 to help me continue the work of this ministry, but they will only do it as a matching donation, which means that this generous donation will only be made after you help me raise a total of $3000. If you can help make this happen, it will be greatly appreciated and it would be greatly helpful to me, as I have not done a fundraiser this year. If you enjoy the work done here and want to see more of it, please make whatever contribution you can through the DONATE link below. Thank you!
(Total So Far - Day 4: $1750)

January 9, 2021

The Russian Church Fulfills the Theory of "First Without Equals"

Concelebration of Primates at the Holy and Great Synod (June 2016)

By Panagiotis Andriopoulos
The "traditionalists" in Greece associate Ukrainian Autocephaly with a "new Ecclesiology of the Phanar", as they characterize it, which wants the Ecumenical Patriarch "first without equals". In fact, they characterize it as an "ecumenistic theory".

This is not, of course, an invention on behalf of those who are anti-patriarchate's in Greece. They embody the theory developed by Moscow and is constantly being reproduced by the representatives of the Russian Church: from Hilarion of Volokolamsk to - recently - the rector of the Theological Academy of Kiev, Bishop Sylvestor of Bilogorodsk, who told us: "Representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople today are guided by the teaching of the special status and rights of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Among the followers of this teaching, one can name, for example, Metropolitan John Zizioulas and Archbishop Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis)."

However, the Elder of Pergamon [John Zizioulas] has clarified his position: “Primacy (in the Orthodox Church) can be practiced only in the context of synodality according to the letter and the spirit of the 34th Canon of the Apostles, which we have examined. The Synod cannot have an advisory, but a decisive character in the decision-making process. The one who has primacy is the one who gives expression of the agreement (or majority) of his Synod" (Περιοδικὸν Θεολογία, τόμ. 80, 2009, σ. 41).

In which of his texts - let the Russians point out to us - does he develope the "theory" of the Ecumenical Patriarch as "the first without equals"?

The text of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Primus sine paribus, is a response to the first text of the Moscow Patriarchate, which was published on 12-26-2013, titled "Position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the Problem of Primacy in the Universal Church".

Regarding this text, Hilarion of Volokolamsk had said: "I hope that this is only a personal opinion of His Eminence Mr. Elpidophoros of Prussa and not a common position of the Hierarchy of the Church of Constantinople." He was right. This text has not been given synodal validity, because, after all, it is not needed. It captures a reality that has to do with the head of the Ecumenical Throne.

Elpidophoros of America is clear: "The person of the Archbishop of Constantinople, who, as a hierarch, is always the 'first among equals', but in regards to Constantinople, however, as well as the Ecumenical Patriarch, he is the 'first without equals' (primussineparibus). This does not mean 'papal' power, as the Russians and their devotees in Greece claim, but the exercise of the canonical privileges of the Ecumenical Throne, as the first in order of the Throne of Orthodoxy."

We recall that Kirill of Moscow had raised the issue in the Pre-Synodal Conferences of the Holy and Great Synod of Orthodoxy, as to whether the Ecumenical Patriarch, in the context of the Concelebration of the Primates, would sit on the synthronon, which gives him a "superiority". And the Ecumenical Patriarch said that the icon of Christ will be on the synthronon. Kyrill of Moscow did not go to the Holy Synod, but Patriarch Bartholomew kept his word. On the synthronon was the icon of the Master Christ.

Concelebration of Primates in Hagia Sophia of Nicaea (December 2000)

Meanwhile at the Concelebration of the Primates in Hagia Sophia of Nicaea in Bithynia (12-26-2000), for the celebration of the 2000th anniversary of the Nativity of Christ, the Ecumenical Patriarch was properly on the synthronon and no one had raised a similar issue.

The subject, then, of the "first" among or without equals, is signified in the Mysteries! Who disagrees with that? In the Mystery of Holy Communion, an Ecumenical Patriarch presides over a concelebration of the Primates. If anything, Patriarch Bartholomew "emptied himself" and we did not use his privilege to ascend the synthronon during the concelebration of the Holy and Great Synod. Despite the absence of Moscow, who had raised the issue.

Is this the one who has "papal claims"?

In his text, Elpidophoros of America has a very interesting footnote about the self-isolation of the Russian Church in the Dialogues, for years: "Typical examples of other cases of self-isolating are the absence of the Moscow Patriarchate from the Conference of European Churches, as well as the fact that the representatives of this Church are now at a point where they celebrate the Divine Liturgy separated from the other representatives of the Orthodox Churches, and are enclosed in each Embassy of the Russian Federation, where there is an opportunity for a Pan-Orthodox Liturgy in various circumstances."

Therefore, the current cessation of communion of the Church of Russia with the Ecumenical Patriarch and other Orthodox Churches was ostensibly predetermined! The Russians want to operate on Russian soil, not on Interorthodox!

The key point, then, is not the Ukrainian issue, but the liturgical. What does Eucharist mean for the Russian Church when it gives a "testimony" of a concelebration of primates like that of Kyrill of Moscow with Theophilos of Jerusalem (Nov. 2019)?

At the Great Entrance, Moscow was mentioned first and Jerusalem second, deleting from the Diptychs all the Primates except themselves! In the consecration of the Holy Gifts, each made one recitation (the first Kyrill: "Take eat...", the second Theophilos: "Drink from it all of you..."). Also, while the prayer of sanctification was said by Moscow (thus having a precedence in being considered "First"), then he made a nod to Jerusalem so that he could bless the Holy Gifts! And we are talking about the Patriarch of Jerusalem, that is, the Primate of one of the four Ancient Patriarchates. We would say that Kyrill of Moscow introduces into the liturgical life the theory of the "First Without Equals" for himself! And this is what should be troubling their minds.

The "primacy" of Moscow is the issue for the Russians. Let them say that they do not question the "primacy" of Constantinople. Theoretically they say it. In practice, they seek to secure their own primacy in the Orthodox world. It is time for the Orthodox Churches to realize this before it is too late.

The "punishment" of the Churches that recognized the Autocephaly of Ukraine with the establishment of Russian Dioceses and Exarchates in their canonical jurisdiction, reveals the real intentions of Moscow to take over Orthodoxy.

The only bulwark in this expansionist policy is the Ecumenical Patriarchate. "And if it did not exist, we should have invented it" (John of Pergamon).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.