Russo-greek Church

Russo-Greek Church

is the community of Christians subject to the emperor of Russia, using the Slavonic liturgy and following the Russian rite. SEE GREEK CHURCH.

1. Orgin. — The early history of the Russian Church is involved in much obscurity; but that Christianity was introduced into Russia previous to the middle of the 9th century must be inferred from a letter of Photius (866) in which he says that the people called Russians had forsaken idolatry, received Christianity, and allowed a bishop to be placed over them (Epistole, ed. Montacaut, p. 58). Its diffusion, however, was very limited. The princess Olga was baptized about the middle of the 10th century, but by no means succeeded in winning over her son Swatoslav and her people to Christianity. Nor was it till the alliance of Vladimir with the court of Byzantium by his marriage with Anne, sister of the emperor Basil II, and his baptism in 988 (when he took the name of Wassily, or Basil), that the foundation of Christianity can be said to have been regularly laid in Russia. He issued an edict for the destruction of idols and idol temples throughout his dominions; and his subjects were commanded to receive baptism, which they did in very large numbers. Churches were built in all directions, the first of them being dedicated by Vladimir himself. Yaroslav, the next Russian monarch, built convents which he filled with Greek scholars and artists, and many works were translated from Greek into the Slavonic dialects.

2. Government. — At first the Russian Church was under the jurisdiction of Rome, and it seems that as late as the Council of Florence (1439) the adherents of the Roman Church throughout Russia were as numerous as those of the Greek party. Its complete separation from Rome was effected by an archbishop of Kief, named Photius, in the latter part of the same century. For more than a century it continued directly subject to the patriarch of Constantinople; but in 1588 the patriarch Jeremias, being in Russia, held a synod of the Russian bishops and erected the see of Moscow into a patriarchate with jurisdiction over the entire territory. He was also induced in 1589 to consecrate Job, archbishop of Rostow, the first patriarch. This action was afterwards confirmed by a synod held at Constantinople; but, as their junior, the patriarch of Moscow ranked after the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople. This subordination was acquiesced in until the reign of Alexis Michaelowitz, when the patriarch of Moscow, Nikon, refused to acknowledge it further. When Peter the Great became ruler, he saw that his government was, in fact, divided with the clergy and the patriarch. Upon the death of Adrian, in 1700, when the bishops were assembled to choose his successor, Peter entered and broke up the meeting, declaring himself patriarch of the Russian Church. To wean the clergy by degrees from their established rights, he kept the office open for upwards of twenty years, and abolished it in 1721. The permanent administration of Church affairs was placed under the direction of a council, called the "Holy Synod," or "Permanent Synod," consisting of archbishop, bishops, and archimandrites, all named by the emperor.

3. Constitution. — Under the direction of this council, a series of official acts and formularies, and catechetical, doctrinal, and disciplinary treatises, was drawn up, by which the whole scheme of the doctrine, discipline, and Church government of the Russian Church was settled in detail, and to which all the clergy, officials, and dignitaries are required to subscribe. The leading principle of this constitution is the absolute supremacy of the czar, and it has been maintained in substance to the present time. The Holy Synod is considered as one of the great departments of the government, the minister of public worship being ex officio a member. This code was enacted in 1551 and received the name of Stoglar, or a hundred chapters.

4. Doctrine. — As regards doctrine, the Russian Church may be considered as identical with the common body of the Greek Church (q.v.). With that Church it rejects the supremacy of the pope and the double procession of the Holy Ghost. All the great leading characteristics of its discipline, too, are the same; the differences of ceremony being too minute to permit our entering into detail. The discipline as to the marriage of the clergy is the same as that described for the Greek Church; and in carrying out the law which enforces celibacy upon bishops the Russians adopt the same expedient with the Greeks, viz. of selecting the bishops from among the monks, who are celibates by virtue of their vow.

5. Liturgy. — The service of the Russian Church was, at its commencement, borrowed from the Greek Church, according to the books translated by Cyril and Methodius into the Slavic, which to this day is the language of the Church. They translated, however, only the most necessary books, the others being translated into Russian since the time of Yaroslav I. In them were found many mistakes which Cyprian and Photius labored to correct; but, as the metropolitans who succeeded them were Russians, and not well versed in the Greek language, errors again crowded in. Maksim, a monk, was called from Athos in 1506 and ordered to revise the Church books, and soon discovered that, by the numerous errors of translation, even the articles of the Creed had been changed in meaning. His work displeasing some, they brought false charges against him, and he was sent to a monastery, deprived of the sacraments, and, after thirty years of suffering, died in 1556. When Nikon became patriarch, he undertook the correction of the books, and sent to the East the monk Arseny Suchanow for the purpose of collecting ancient Greek and Slavic MSS. This resulted in the correction of the Scriptures and the introduction of the corrected version in the place of the old ones. The Church service itself underwent no change except the addition of some holy days in honor of new saints.

6. Clergy. — There are three ranks of episcopacy in the Church — metropolitans, archbishops, and bishops, who each have a peculiar dress. These three classes are called by the general name of archirei, or prelates;

next to them in degree are the archimandrites and hegoumeni, or abbots and priors of the monasteries; and last and lowest of all are the monks, who have been either ordained for the priestly office, for the second degree, or diaconate, or are mere lay brothers without having taken the vow. The clergy are divided into two classes, regular and secular. The first are alone entitled to the highest dignities of the Church, are ordained under much stricter vows than the others, and are termed the black clergy from their wearing a black robe. The secular clergy have a brown and blue robe, and are termed the white clergy. Although special provision was made for the Roman Catholics in Poland by the erection of an archbishopric in communion with Rome at Mohilev in 1783, and still later arrangements, yet the whole policy of the Russian government is opposed to the free exercise of worship by its subjects. According to the Statistical Year-book of the Russian Empire for 1871, the orthodox adherents of the Russian Church exceeded 53,000,000, the clergy of all ranks numbering about 215,000. Religious sects abound, who all go by the general name of Raskolniks (q.v.). See King, Travels in Russia; Krazinski, Religious History of the Slavonic Nations; Mouravieff, History of the Church in Russia; Ricaut, History of Greek and Armenian Churches (1694). SEE RUSSIA.

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