Orthodox belief and practice was the primary agenda. For the Orthodox in Ukraine, the central fact of life was struggle against Roman Catholicism and the Uniate Church. Thus similar changes in liturgical texts aroused no opposition in Ukraine, but stirred up bitter controversy in Russia. Moreover, scholars have recently argued that Nikon's liturgical reforms arose from a new understanding - widespread elsewhere in European Christendom - of liturgy as a commemoration of Christ's life, death and resurrection in which words, gestures and ritual objects may legitimately have several different levels of meaning simultaneously.18
Whatever their broader implications, the new service books altered some of the most frequently repeated words, gestures and visible symbols in the liturgy Even more jarring was the autocratic manner in which Nikon introduced the new editions: against the advice of the ecumenical patriarch and the tsar, he insisted that only the reformed usage was acceptable. In 1656, he repeatedly branded the two-finger sign of the cross and other traditional Russian practices as heretical.19
The reforms and the patriarch's intransigence in enforcing them split the reform coalition. In a series of increasingly agitated letters written in late 1653 and early 1654 to the tsar and Vonifat'ev, Ivan Neronov severely criticised Nikon's abandonment of Russia's heritage and the arrogance with which he was treating his former friends. The three-finger sign of the cross and the altered number of deep bows (poklony) in services were specific examples of these destructive policies. In one letter to Vonifat'ev, he told of hearing a voice from an icon urging him to resist Nikon's reforms, a story later retold in his friend Avvakum's autobiography.20 For their outspoken protests, the authorities excommunicated Neronov and imprisoned him in a remote northern monastery and exiled Avvakum to Siberia. According to tradition, the one bishop who in 1654 openly questioned the reforms, Pavel of Kolomna, lost his see and his life for his stand.21
As these examples indicate, resistance to the liturgical reforms began with individuals and small, scattered groups. Beginning with Spiridon Potemkin in
18 K. C. Felmy, Die Deutung der Göttlichen Liturgie in der russischen Theologie: Wege und Wandlungenrussischer Liturgie-Auslegung [Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte 54] (Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1984), 80-111; B. A. Uspensky 'The schism and cultural conflict in the seventeenth century', Seeking God: the recovery of religious identity in Orthodox Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia, ed. S. K. Batalden (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1993), 106-43.
19 Kapterev Patriarkh Nikon, 1,192-8; Meyendorff, Russia, 61-2.
20 Materialydliaistoriiraskolazapervoevremiaegosushchestvovaniia, ed. N. Subbotin(Moscow: Redaktsiia 'Bratskoe slovo', 1874-90), 1, 51-78, 99-100; Avvakum, Zhitie, 65.
21 Subbotin, Materialy, 1, 100-2.
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