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I was hoping those on this forum more "in the know" might know the answer to this question: what exactly was the situation of Met. Ambrose with regards to communion (with the EP, particularly) when he agreed to serve as the bishop for the Old Believers in Belaya Krinitsa? It seems (from the wikipedia article, which of course could be wrong) that his "conversion" was not necessarily a breaking away from his previous communion, and the EP actually recognized the hierarchy he established. On the other hand, the Old Believers received him as someone coming from a heretical communion and accordingly chrismated him. If we take this action at face value, it would seem the Old Believers considered themselves the last real Orthodox communion, and took the unprecedented step of creating an entirely new hierarchy from a "heretical" bishop.

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Yes, it is a fascinating history!

The hierarchy established by St Ambrosios of Bielo-Krinitsa, the first Metropolitan of the Russian Old Believers, was actually reviewed and acknowledged as legitimate by the EP - something that angered the Russian Synod. As we know, the same Synod brought sufficient pressure to bear that resulted in having St Ambrosios sent into exile in Austria.

There is no document from the EP which ever excommunicated St Ambrosios. That the EP acknowledged him and his hierarchy is proof positive in this respect - and that against the irritations of the Russian government and its Synod.

At the same time, Saints Pavel and Alimpy of Biela-Krinitsa (glorified as saints as well) openly invited talks with St Ambrosios and was invited to become their Metropolitan by them and many other Old Believer Orthodox Christians (including a group of Nekresov Cossacks) who treated him VERY COURTEOUSLY.

In other words, given the well-known reaction of Old Believers to the "heretical" Greeks (St Avvakum and his followers actually blamed the Greeks for their "Latinizing ways" which ultimately influenced Russia), it is clear that this group of Old Believers were willing to evince an uncharacteristic ecumenical openness toward St Ambrosios.

In fact, they wanted to establish a priested hierarchy and this is why they wanted St Ambrosios to show them all documents related to his canonical episcopal consecration. That doesn't sound like they regarded his consecration as "graceless" or "heretical" (same difference).

Nor was St Ambrosios ever accused of being any other than a true Orthodox. That he was chrismated etc. does not have to mean that he was "graceless" in Old Believer eyes - if they regarded him as such, then they wouldn't have accepted his episcopal orders.

Such a chrismation only signified his full incorporation into the Old Believers (as I see it, anyway).

He was on good terms with both the RC and the Greek Orthodox, save for Russia and its Synod.

It could very well have been that both sides, the EP and the Old Believers of Bielo-Krinitsa, understood what St Ambrosios was doing in two different ways.

From the point of view of the EP, it could have seen him as working to bestow the Mysteries/Sacraments on the Old Believers and to bring them, re: ekonomia into union with the Orthodox Catholic Church. Russia and its Synod had, as we know, excommunicated the Old Believers for their "heretical rites," but the Greeks didn't care at all how the Russians crossed themselves etc. (Patriarch Nikon was an obsessive Hellenophile which is what angered the Old Believers in the first place - he even preferred Greek food to Russian cuisine . . .).

So the Old Ritual was no anathema to the EP. (The fact that the EP recognized St Ambrosios' hierarchy historically is the foundation for the current talks betwenn the MP and the Old Believers today in this same vein).

The Old Believers of Bielo-Krinitsa, on the other hand, (and this is my conjecture), may have sincerely wanted to return to the Sacramental life and have their own validly consecrated hierarchy which they knew would not happen unless they connected with a bishop of the Greek Church (since Russia had excommunicated them and was actively persecuting them). The fact of their being persecuted as "priestless" and therefore a "graceless sect" by Russia may have prompted them to seek a canonical bishop and hierarchy from the EP for survival reasons alone. This was also one of the reasons why the Ruthenian Orthodox bishops in the 16th century sought union with Rome given: a) the direct control over them by a weak and Turkish-dominated EP; b) Muscovite ambitions to take them under the Russian wing - and the Ruthenian Orthodox thought of the Russians as "barbaric Muscovy" and, c) the tremendous social, cultural and political weight of Rome and the Catholic Church within the anti-Orthodox Polish kingdom.

But I digress . . .

The only consistency one may find is that of reaction to the ecclesial-political realities of the day.


Last edited by Orthodox Catholic; 04/20/15 10:02 AM.

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