The only threat to his position lay in his dependence on his royal patron. Suddenly, however, Aleksei and Nikon parted ways in 1658. After the tsar refused to settle several seemingly trifling conflicts to Nikon's satisfaction, the patriarch withdrew from Moscow to the New Jerusalem monastery and left the day-to-day business of the church in the hands of a locum tenens, the metropolitan of Krutitsy. At the same time, Nikon still thought of himself as the patriarch. For example, in 1659, he attempted to anathematise his replacement for playing the role of Christ in the annual Palm Sunday procession.
Nikon's self-imposed exile without abdicating the patriarchal office created an extremely awkward situation. As messages and emissaries shuttled back and forth between Moscow and New Jerusalem, it became clear that there was no hope of reconciliation, for, in addition to intense personal animosity, Nikon and Aleksei's government had radically different ideas about the relations of church and state in a Christian monarchy. In his lengthy Refutation of 1664 Nikon insisted in the strongest possible terms on the superiority of the spiritual power to the secular arm.24 Therefore, in matters of principle such as, for example, the complete judicial independence of the church from lay justice, the church and its primate should prevail. Was Nikon, as he claimed, simply restating fundamental Orthodox principles? Many of his arguments and examples do indeed come from classic Orthodox texts. Nevertheless, the vehemence with which he made his case stretched the elastic Orthodox notion of the 'symphony' of church and state beyond breaking point. And, as many scholars have noted, Nikon borrowed some of his most telling images -for example, likening the church to the sun and secular government to the moon - from papal polemics of the high Middle Ages.25 Finally, Nikon's attitudes ran counter to the tendency of governments and ecclesiastical leaders all across sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe to collaborate in making the church a force for maintaining political cohesion and social order, a process some historians call 'confessionalisation'.
In this situation, Aleksei had no choice but to replace Nikon. But with what procedures and on what grounds could a patriarch be deposed? It is a measure of the tsar's desperation that his most valuable agent in arranging Nikon's deposition was Paisios Ligarides, a former apostate to Roman Catholicism
24 W Palmer, The Patriarch and the Tsar (London: Trtibner and Co., 1871-76), 1; Patriarch Nikon, Patriarch Nikon on church and state - Nikon's 'Refutation' (Vozrazhenie ili razorenie smirennago Nikona, bozhieiu milostiiu Patriarkha, protiv voprosov boiarina Simeona Stresh-neva), ed. V A. Tumins and G. Vernadsky (Berlin, New York and Amsterdam: Mouton, 1982).
25 Contrast M. V Zyzykin, Patriarkh Nikon: ego gosudarstvennyia i kanonicheskiia idei, 3 vols. (Warsaw: Sinodal'naia Tipografiia, I93i-38),with Kapterev, Patriarkh Nikon.
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