I’ve waited to write about this as I gathered information on what it means, and as I waited for my priest to get his instructions on how to proceed.
The schism between the Russian Patriarch and the Ecumenical Patriarch is very grave. While here in the Diaspora, we’re half a world away from this and have nothing to do with it, we still are affected by it.
There are many repercussions in America to being told that Russians can no longer commune or share any other sacraments with those under the Ecumenical Patriarch (EP; includes the Greeks in America). The following is taken from how my priest explained it, along with my own thoughts:
Here, we are of a minority faith, so the members of all the different Orthodox jurisdictions come together. Maybe we have Greek churches, Russian churches and the like, but we also have Pan-Orthodox churches and services, such as an annual Vesper service in this region. And a Russian is welcome to come into a Greek church and commune, and vice versa. Which is especially necessary because many communities have only one type of Orthodox church for miles around. I read about churches which have members from all over the place: Russians, Greeks, Serbians, etc. etc.
The schism is not because of dogmatical differences, as my priest says, but because of two hierarchs disagreeing. It’s the biggest schism since the Big One in 1054. He sees it as a great tragedy.
The EP, from what I understand, has not broken communion with Russia, though Russia has with him. My priest says that Russians are welcome in our church, even if they don’t take communion with us.
The trouble is that Russia has said that its members are not allowed to share any sacraments or even services at EP churches. And ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) supports the actions of the Russian patriarch and has also separated from the EP.
In my own church is someone from the Crimea who loves our church. She’s too far from churches of her own jurisdiction to go there often. A few weeks ago, she could come to our church without any hindrance or feeling like it’s a sin. Now, she’s being told she can’t. Not by US–we tell her we want her to keep coming, and Father will also let her keep coming–but by Russia. And her mother. Our church members told her this is men arguing, and that what matters is what’s in her heart.
And we’re just one church. Just the thought of how many people this is going to affect, all the disruptions it will cause in the Diaspora, people who can no longer commune with their own families (ie, Russian married to Greek), people who no longer have a church to go to, breaking of Pan-Orthodox events…. When the split happened, I read on an Orthodox forum about someone who was supposed to be a godfather in a few days. Now all of a sudden, he couldn’t do it. Imagine the scramble to find a godparent, and after the parents had already decided they wanted him to do it! Imagine the honor which was ripped out of his hands.
As one person said last week after the service: And they wonder why church attendance is dropping!