Start of the Great Schism Raskol

The main facts are as follows:

1654: Patriarch Nikon, empowered by the Synod of Russian Bishops in Moscow, began his revision of the Russian liturgical books and rites. Nikon's liturgical reform resulted from his philhellenism. In fact, this was but the first, unhelpful, step towards a larger reform, which was never accomplished. Nikon's philhel-lenism was not directed towards contemporary Greeks; though without actual knowledge of either Greek or Greek theology, Nikon was against his will depending on contemporary Greeks. In principle, however, he was struggling for what he thought was the Byzantine heritage.

1655: Council in Moscow approved the reforms, with the participation of Macarius, the Patriarch of Antioch; Macarius anathematized the Old Russian rites proclaimed to be incorrect (especially making of the sign of cross with two fingers instead of three); the Patriarch of Constantinople Paisius wrote to Nikon opposing his reforms; there was powerful opposition to Nikon within the Church and among the nobility.

1658: Nikon voluntarily left his throne owing to the deterioration in his relations with the tsar, largely because of his own pretensions to establish the 'priesthood' over the 'kingdom'; the Muscovite Church was headed by a locum tenens; Nikon lost interest in his reforms and reverted, at least, partially, to the old rites; for example, he wrote and had published liturgical books in the pre-reform style.

1662-3: Polemics between Nikon and Paisius Ligarides, a defrocked Metropolitan of Gaza, and an international adventurer, who arrived in Moscow in the guise of a true bishop of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

1666: Council in Moscow with participation of the Patriarchs Macarius of Antioch and Paisius of Alexandria (by this time, both of them had been suspended by the Synod of Constantinople, whose decision was then unknown in Russia); Nikon condemned and defrocked; the Council issued a book, the Rod of Ruling (Zhezl Pravleniya) written by Simeon of Polotsk (1629-80) under heavy Latin influence; Patriarch Macarius, too, was Latin-friendly, to such an extent that in 1665 he directed to Rome his Catholic confession of faith.

1667: Council in Moscow (a continuation of that of 1666) with participation of the same two Eastern Patriarchs with the purpose of regulating the whole life of the Church. The most important decisions were: approval of the Rod of Ruling; anathematizing of the old Russian customs and those who followed them; the Stoglav Council was proclaimed illegal (because it was uncanonical) and abrogated.

The Council of 1667 effectively created the Schism within the Russian Church. The majority of the people and the monastics and most of the lower clergy refused to follow the hierarchy, despite extremely cruel persecutions. All the bishops, on the other hand, accepted the Council, with the one exception of Paul of Kolomna, who was deposed and died under suspicious circumstances. The leaders of the dissidents (the Old Believers or Old Ritualists) were now, by the 1670s, archpriest Avvakum Petrov and deacon Theodore Ivanov.

The consequences of the Schism would be irreparable. The state church organization, with no support from the most victimized section of the faithful, was destined to submit to the secular rulers, whose interests would move further and further away from those of the Orthodox faith.

Traditionalist reaction within the state church and the 'heresy of motleys'

Simeon of Polotsk, a Russian poet of Byelorussian origin and a pro-Latin theologian, was an informal leader of the state church up to his death in 1680. His party continued to be in power up to the coup d'état of 1690. The subsequent anti-Latin reaction was headed by Patriarchs Joachim (1674-90) and Adrian (1690-1700). The Moscow Council of 1690 under Patriarch Joachim anathematized Simeon of Polotsk and all like-minded pro-Latin people (Simeon is reported to have confessed openly even the filioque). The condemned individuals were labelled 'motleys' (pjostrye), that is, neither Orthodox nor Catholic (despite their adherence to Latin scholasticism they never acknowledged the jurisdiction of the pope). The same Council condemned a long list of books published in Kiev throughout the seventeenth century, including the works of Peter Mogila (1596-1647), and forced the hierarchy of the Kievan Metropolitanate to agree to this condemnation.

The main pretext of the 1690 Council was the question of when exactly the Holy Gifts became transformed in the eucharistic liturgy. This had already been discussed at Florence in 1439, when Mark of Ephesus insisted that it was at the time of the epiclesis. In the Kievan Metropolitanate and then, in Moscow (at least, since the publication of the Skrizhal' by Nikon) the Latin view had prevailed: that it was at the time of the Words of Institution 'This is my body' and 'This is my blood.' The Council condemned the Latin view and established that of Mark of Ephesus, and the Constantinopolitan Council of 1691 approved this statement.

This patristic reorientation of Muscovite theology would have been impossible without the help of Greek theologians (writing mostly in Latin), the brothers Likhoudes: Joannicus (c.1633/5-1717) and Sophronius (c.1652/7-1730), pupils of the Metropolitan of Philadelphia (that is, of Venice) Gerasimos Vlachos. The latter was known for his edition (along with François Combefis) of the writings of Maximus the Confessor. The Likhoudes were in a close contact with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Dositheus (1669-1707), who was then about to publish the Byzantine anti-Latin polemics and the proceedings of the Hesychast councils of the fourteenth century. Through the brothers Likhoudes, Russia directly participated during the 1690s in recovering the Hesychast heritage.

At the same time the Schism did not allow this work to be completed. The book, the Rod of Ruling, as well as the Councils of 1666-7, escaped the condemnation. Patriarch Joachim expressed publicly his opinion that it made no difference whether one made the sign of cross with two fingers or with three. He was obliged, nevertheless, to persecute the Old Believers. After the death of Patriarch Adrian in 1700, Tsar Peter I intensified his church reforms when the pro-Latin party, headed by the locum tenens Stephen Yavorskij (1658-1722), came to power once again. Yavorskij reopened the discussions on the Holy Gifts, taking the side of the 'motleys'; the brothers Likhoudes answered him but no changes came about in consequence.

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