Mission fruitless when damaged in faith – 18 years in India and Malankar Church

ABOUT ONE UNSUCCESSFUL MISSIONARY pravoslavie.ru Recently (note – in 2012) the book of memoirs of Archimandrite Andronicus (Elpidinsky) “Eighteen Years in India” was published. For me, as a frequent visitor to India, the book was of particular interest. Father Andronic went to India in 1931 as a missionary and spent eighteen years there. He was an amazing man. As for the methods of the mission, he did everything quite right. He settled in the wilderness, amidst mountains and forests, and lived a perfect unbridled man, building an orthodox skete-monastery with his own hands. He spoke to India in the language she respected most, the language of strict asceticism. In addition, he also learned the local language and translated the divine service into it, which he performed in the built temple. Father Andronic was an open, friendly man with a good character and during his frequent travels he travelled almost all over the country, communicating with many people. In a short time, he won the great respect of the Indians, both Christians and Gentiles. But in eighteen years as a missionary, he had achieved nothing. After him, there is not even a small community of Orthodox Christians left to convert. How could this happen? It is no wonder that a missionary who has no love for people and a country where he has come to preach is a lazy, unbelieving, vicious man who perceives the mission as a burden – but all this is not about Father Andronicus. Then why? His book gives an exhaustive answer. It begins after a short introduction with a story about how Father Andronicus went on a ship to India. I immediately remembered the diaries of Saint Nicholas of Japan, which also begin with the way he sailed to Japan. But what a contrast in the mood of the two missionaries! St. Nicholas is already on the ship thinking about how the Japanese will be converted, and Father Andronicus has very different thoughts: “It was easier to realize the unity of the Churches, but the conversion of the Gentiles seemed more difficult and possible only if there was a special manifestation of the power of God … For the work of such a scale, believed the Lord will prepare other workers, more spiritual power and gifts than I am”[1]. So, even before the missionary has set foot on the Indian land, he decides that he will not be engaged in the conversion of the Gentiles: it is too high and too difficult for him. He is interested in joining the Indian Malankar “Orthodox” Church, a member of the “family” of Monophysite Churches, to Orthodoxy. A strange contradiction: it is difficult for me to turn a few pagans, but to turn a whole unjust Church is on my shoulders. Father Andronicus remained faithful to his unwillingness to preach among the Hindus all eighteen years in India. Whenever it comes to why he does not do this, Father Andronic exposes the incredible difficulty and impossibility of such a thing, but what is remarkable: when it comes to those missionaries in India who were personally familiar to him, it turns out that they were quite successful in dealing with this “impossible” thing. Thus, for example, he describes the one-legged beggar catechiser Gregory, who lived in the monastery of Bethany Asram, who traveled around the country, converting pagans to Christianity (p. 87). In another place, he mentions Malankar Archimandrite Peter, who “converted thousands of 15 pagans to Christianity, and his brotherhood continues to convert a thousand a year. (С. 254). Moreover, Father Andronicus himself was once involved in this activity, when Malankar priest Thomas took him on a trip to a certain area, and the two of them preached there for more than a week. And the result of this missionary journey was that 500 local Gentiles had joined the Malankar Church (p. 103). It would seem that why not try the one thing you had the opportunity to see for yourself? 500 people in a week – who wouldn’t be inspired by that? Father Andronicus did not inspire. Of course, Gregory, Peter, and Thomas are Indians, locals; one could say that it is easier for them to preach to their own people. But Father Andronic also mentions such a case, when the Russian Lutheran A.K. Irbe arranged a Lutheran mission in India, “and after 15 years there were about 3000 converts” (P. 294). Despite these facts, Father Andronicus remained incredibly tenacious for all eighteen years in his unwillingness to preach to the Gentiles. As an exception, he did baptize four children from the families of the Gentiles – all four of them prepared for baptizing by Constantine the schemons, who lived with him for some time. Subsequently, two children were “converted to Catholicism,” and about two more Father Andronicus wrote: “I asked the local Jacobite priest to take the children into his care” (p. 156). Here, as they say, the comments are unnecessary. In addition to pagans, there are many local Christians in India with distorted beliefs – Catholics, Protestants. They were not of any missionary interest to Father Andronicus either. He not only did not do anything to preach to them, but also showed passivity even when various Indian communities asked for Orthodoxy. Thus, he describes how back in 1933 the coordinator of the mission, which included several groups of converts and which was orphaned when its head, an Englishman, left India, “began to ask me earnestly to take the mission to the jurisdiction of the Russian Church … I wrote to Metropolitan Eugene, but he bypassed the issue in silence … Father Alexei (Malankarian. – D.G.M.) and the Catholicos led the policy – to clean it up with all his property. Father Alexei once told me: “You should not interfere in this matter”. (С. 97). And Father Andronicus obediently did not interfere. Another time he was told that near Calcutta, “in Trichinapolis, a mass of Catholics wanted to go to Orthodoxy and that a huge school was also sold there. Buy,” he told me, “this school, you will immediately have a great mission. I timidly wrote about it to France, but, of course, our people did nothing” (P. 291). In this and other cases, Father Andronicus puts his lack of financial support as the reason for his inaction. This can hardly be recognized as the real reason. Especially since some money was still sent to him, in particular St. Nicholas (Velimirović). Of course, it was incomparable with the means available, for example, to the Catholics, but on the other hand, the one-legged catechiser Gregory could conduct a successful mission even without any money. Amazing thing: Father Andronicus, on his frequent travels in India, seems to have visited all of its places, except those where there were communities that asked for Orthodoxy. He did not even go to them! All he did was write another letter to his metropolitan, who was sitting in Europe, and “washed his hands”. The fact that the reason was not the lack of material means, is clearly seen from the third case, when he was even offered material support for the needs of the organization of the mission among the group asking for Orthodoxy. And he refused anyway! Father Andronic writes: A.K. Irbe “offered me to accept 300 people into Orthodoxy, promising support, but I didn’t want to get involved with it and leave the started work in Travankor” (p. 294). Another time he described that on Ceylon “Father Vasily … offered me a plot of land with a rice field, promised me help in the construction and asked to arrange a monastery” (P. 191). This is the same Anglican priest Vasily Jayavarden, about whom Metropolitan Nestor writes that he, along with twelve other priests repeatedly asked for Orthodoxy – alas, unsuccessfully. The Metropolitan was already far from India at that time, and Father Andronicus did not go on a mission to Ceylon for the same reason as above: “…I personally did not want to leave the case in Travancore” (P. 191). Travancore map Travancore’s map of Travancore, what’s this case in Travancore? The construction of a skete-monastery on the mountain, which Father Andronicus “officially handed over” to the Malankar Metropolitan Dionysius, leaving for the USA a few years later (p. 348). And the contacts with the Malankar Church, which after eighteen years of communion with Father Andronicus remained both in faith and in the status absolutely the same as it was before his arrival in India. It would seem that, since all his attention was focused on Malankar Christians, for eighteen years, his work had to bring some fruit at least in this direction. Alas! Indeed, many Malankars loved him and respected him, some even lived as his assistants in the skete for many years, but he did not accept anybody in Orthodoxy. A typical example: Father Andronicus writes that of the local Malankars, “during Holy Week, several people came to me to speak to me … because I did not charge them anything for confession and communion … I did not persecute them, but said that, having excluded them from me, they should stay in their Church. Because of a few people, I didn’t want to spoil my relationship with the Syrian bishops because I was working to connect their entire Church with our Church” (P.153). Here we go. I didn’t want to spoil the relationship because of a few people. “Modestly, I wanted to turn the whole Church at once. How can you explain Father Andronic’s strange attitude? After all, even the laziest and most morally decayed missionary would not refuse to accept in Orthodoxy at least those who come and ask for it. Father Andronic was neither lazy nor morally decayed. Perhaps many readers have already guessed the reason. The thing is that Father Andronic was, unfortunately, an ecumenist and modernist. As is customary in people of such a worldview, he believed that the non-Orthodox were being saved (p. 171), so to speak, as long as the man was a good man. This conviction – which contradicts both Scripture and Church tradition – explains why Father Andronicus not only did not make any effort to preach Orthodoxy to the Indians himself, but even missed and – moreover – pushed away those cases that were coming into his hands. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16); “if anyone is not born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5); “whoever does not believe in the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on it” (John 3:36); those who commit themselves to “heresy… the Kingdom of God will not inherit” (Galatians 5:20-21). (Gal. 5: 20-21.) These truths guide the true missionary. He understands that the acceptance or non-acceptance of Orthodoxy is a matter of life and death, and moreover of eternal life and eternal death. Therefore, for example, the famous Altai missionary the Monk Makarius (Glukharev) began his missionary work with the words: “The Christian faith… is the only God-open way for men to be truly blessed… there is no salvation beyond the crucified Jesus Christ; and without faith in His name, as the true God who appeared in the flesh, no one can be cleansed from sin, enlightened and enter the kingdom of heaven”[2]. 2] So did Saint Nicholas of Japan: “We firmly believe … that there is no other door to the kingdom of heaven except Christ”[3]. But if we do not think that only Orthodoxy is saving, then the question of accepting or not accepting it ceases to be a question that decides the eternal fate of man, and then the whole mission is reduced to agitation “our club is better than yours”. And what is surprising if the “missionary” archimandrite Andronic (Elpidinsky) neglected such agitation for the sake of his invented great goal? If everybody who wants it will be saved by their good deeds, then, really, why should they preach something? Why for the sake of some 300 Indians to abandon the great “business in Travancore”? In accordance with his ecumenical guidelines, Father Andronicus communed with the Malankars and, moreover, he himself gave the Malankar Metropolitan Dionysius “a certificate that our Orthodox people can apply to him for the execution of the demand”, and in turn received from him a certificate of the possibility of committing the demand for the Malankars (p. 302). On another occasion, he was pleased to describe how he once entered an Anglican church on the island of Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka). It turned out that the parishioners had gathered for service, and their priest had not arrived. “The church council asked me to do the service … I conspired … that I would serve our vespers and that they would sing between my singing “Lord, the calls”, “Quiet Light” and the objects. Standing at the middle of the altar … I conducted the service in peace, and the pilgrims were very satisfied” (P. 194). As it befits an ecumenist, Father Andronic believed that Malankars were completely Orthodox in faith, and that we were spiritually already in the same Church of Christ, just divided administratively. And it was this delusion that made his titanic efforts to “unite the churches” fruitless. He really did a lot of things. He personally knew the majority of the bishops and even the Catholicos of the Malankar Church, with whom he repeatedly spoke about joining the Orthodox Church. At the same time he noted that the Catholicos “strictly observes the peculiarities of his Church, and on this ground we had constant disagreements” (p. 243). Both in this and other cases, when faced with Malankar’s “peculiarities”, Father Andronicus insisted on his “useless and just tried to suggest to them that we are Orthodox and that we will not help them by arguing about the wording. Creating the atmosphere of Christian brotherhood with them, I believed that this is the most necessary thing, that this brotherhood will destroy any small differences” (P. 296). As history has shown, it has not destroyed at all. What are these “minor differences”? Not only Father Andronic, but many still believe that the Indian Malankar Church, like other Eastern churches, does not really follow the monophysite heresy and in faith is not the same as ours. Let us cite the testimonies from the book under consideration. Father Andronicus writes that the Malankars “hate the Greeks”, are revered as saints of Sebirus of Antioch, Dioscorus, James Baraddai, and at the same time “are hostile to the Holy Lion the Great” (p. 297). They also “have a definitely hostile attitude towards the Council of Chalcedon” (p. 179). The statement of faith, which the Malankar bishops presented to the Orthodox in 1954, states that “after this mysterious union there can be no division … into two natures. Christ is one Face, and His nature is one. There is one will and one power in Him” (P. 300). It is not difficult for a person familiar with church history and dogma to see that this is exactly the monophysitism (and at the same time monophysitism and monoenergy), which was fought by the Holy Fathers and condemned at the Ecumenical Councils. Unfortunately, Malankar Christians are still committed to it. I had a chance to see this personally when I heard from a local parishioner during a visit to the Malankar temple in Goa in 2011 that there was only one nature in Christ and that we Orthodox Christians had followed the Council of Chalcedon in vain, which was a mistake. Unfortunately, because of his ecumenical and modernist views, Father Andronic did nothing to dispel at least some of the misconceptions of the Malankars, even though, again, he was so widely known and respected that he is still remembered in India. As for the Malankars’ non-recognition of the IV Ecumenical Council, Father Andronicus said that “in fact, this question, though necessary, is an adjunct. And the main thing is our common consciousness of belonging to the Orthodoxy, to the united Holy, Cathedral and Apostolic Church. We had this consciousness before” (p. 179). He could not understand that it was such false attitudes that made his many years of selfless efforts fruitless. Having put myself in the shoes of the Malankars with whom Father Andronic spoke, I do not find any reason that could make them fervently wish to be united with Orthodoxy: for if, as you say, we already have the same faith, if we are already in the same Church, if we are already saved, if you are already praying with us and even communing with us, why should we do something else to join Orthodoxy? Why do we need to? Then it’s just a small administrative question, which is not a vital one. I remember here the example of familiar Greek monks who worked in Mexico and in a short time converted 200 local Catholics to Orthodoxy. The secret is simple: always accepting people with love, always helping those in need, they were strict and adamant about joint prayers and sacraments. I myself saw a Mexican who became an Orthodox monk, and heard the history of his conversion. Having befriended his fathers from the monastery, one evening he expressed a desire to receive communion with them. They replied that this was impossible because he was outside the Church. Nathan was outraged and said harsh words. Then he came out and walked all night long without closing his eyes and thought. In the morning he came and said that he asked to be attached to the Orthodox Church. In spite of all this, in the nearest city there was an Orthodox parish of another jurisdiction, where Catholics were quietly allowed to partake of the sacrament, and for all the years of its existence, not a single person turned to Orthodoxy, although many Mexicans go there. And why apply if you are already given the Cup? The same is true in India. The topic of joining Orthodoxy – not in the doctrinal, but in the administrative plane – was of some interest only to the Catholicos and his entourage. They expressed their desire to join Orthodoxy, but that is why. At that time the Malankar Church was divided into two parties. One part of the bishops remained faithful to the Patriarch of Siro-Jacobite, and the other in 1912 announced the autocephaly and elected its Catholicos. This autocephaly was not recognized by the Jacobite patriarch, and the Catholicos and his entourage felt uncomfortable under the criticism of the bishops of the first party, who called them dissenters and detractors, indicating that they had lost contact with Syria. It was not just a matter of distracted criticism – both parties were actively luring the flock away from each other. In this regard, the option of joining the Orthodox Church was considered as a counterargument and some kind of legalization of the Catholicos party. It was only a political issue; they were not going to change anything in their faith and church practice. Father Andronicus believed that his goal of “uniting the churches” was not achieved because of the fact that the Orthodox Church did not pay enough attention to the desires of Malankars. This is not the case. He himself describes that India at different times in the 1930s-1940s was officially visited by Bishop Dimitriy (Voznesensky), Archbishop of Kamchatka Nestor (Anisimov), Priestly Confessor Dosifei (Vasich), Metropolitan of Zagreb for the purpose of negotiations with the Catholicos; We would also like to add that during the trip of the Catholicos and Malankar bishops to Europe, they were invited to visit Serbia and received there at the highest level, in particular, Saint Nicholas (Velimirović) met with them. So, the attention to them was, at a very high level, and there were repeated negotiations, but the result was zero. The reason was the Malankars themselves. Father Andronic writes that in 1938, the Catholicos “declared to Archbishop Nestor that they wanted to be united, but that it was necessary to wait with this case” (p. 305). He writes that he himself was also made to understand that “it is not the time yet” for connection. Generally speaking, he is surprised by some frivolity in Father Andronicus’ ideas on how to prepare the “connection of Churches”. Describing that the main congregation of the Syrian Jacobite Patriarch is made up of Malankars living in India, and noting that even the Catholicos party was influenced by the Patriarch, Father Andronicus did not think about what measures the Jacobite Patriarch could take to fight for such a significant part of his congregation. But he would hardly sit idly by if it came to serious movements towards Orthodoxy. In his fantasies, Father Andronicus for some reason decided that it was “the Russian and other Slavic Churches … that would have realized spiritual and formal unity” with the Malankar Church (p. 168), although his reigning bishop, Metropolitan Eugene, quite reasonably noticed that at that time – in the 1930s and 1940s – the Russian Orthodox Church was in no position at all to deal with the great things in India. The Malankar Church was related to the Monophysite Patriarch of Antioch, but did not her conversion concern the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch? But Father Andronicus did not even try to consult with the Orthodox of the Antioch Church. At that time the parish of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Calcutta, where the Greek priest served, was active in India. But Father Andronicus did not even care to meet with this priest and discuss his great plans to join the Malankars to Orthodoxy. These plans were doomed to fail, even if the case had progressed further. As if joining the Orthodoxy is not a question of faith, truth, salvation, but only a question of political conjuncture, it will be frail and in case of changes in the conjuncture it will result in withdrawal from the Church. We already know such examples in the twentieth century in France, the Czech Republic, and Brazil, where certain church organizations were converted to Orthodoxy, and some time later they fell away from it. In 1949, Father Andronicus left India. After himself, he left no parish, no congregation, not even a single person converted to Orthodoxy. In 30 years, a Greek missionary priest will come to India and, having undertaken a real mission, baptize 5,000 pagans in Bengal, create communities, and prepare the Bengal priests who still serve there. The example of Father Andronicus is an important lesson that shows the danger of damage to the faith. It is not limited to the mind of the person, but affects all his activities, so that even the good deed undertaken is completely fruitless, despite the fact that in terms of methods everything is done correctly. Deacon Georgy Maximov 24 October 2012

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