“They will do all these things to you on account of My Name, because they do not know the One Who sent Me” (Jn 15:21).
The birth of the spirit of Uniatism
On June 5th, of the year 1595, nine Ruthenian1 Orthodox Bishops gathered in the city of Brest (in modern-day Belarus) to formulate and initiate what is known as the “Union of Brest” – a formula of union with the Roman Pontificate. The guarantees they formulated – thirty-three articles in all – were proclaimed in August of that year by Sigismund III, king of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. This kingdom was staunchly Roman Catholic. In December of 1595, Pope Clement VIII issues a papal bull, Magnus Dominus, to announce the “union”; in February of 1596, the guarantees of the union were proclaimed in a papal bull, Decet Romanum Pontificem. In October of 1596, the Ruthenian Bishops gathered once again in the city of Brest to proclaim the fully ratified the “Union of Brest.”
This union created what is known as the “Unia” or “Uniates.” This group is composed of formerly Orthodox persons who for various reasons actively chose to leave Holy Orthodoxy and embrace the Roman pontificate.
A stalwart resistance to the Unia was shown forth by many a faithful Orthodox. We have great saints like Athanasius of Brest and Job of Pochaev who remained faithful to the Truth of Jesus Christ and actively worked against the seductive union of Brest.
As with most events of history, there is a long and detailed chain of events that led up to the culminating event and follow after it. This is also the case with the “Union of Brest.” I cannot cover these events in detail in this small article. At present, my goal is to focus on how the “Unia” is the prototype of a new kind of apostasy, the effects of which we are still dealing with today; indeed the Unia is still being expanded and implemented. Understanding the underlying reasons of the Unia and its goals will also help the reader to discern current events in Ukraine and beyond.
The original sowing of the spirit of the “Unia” may be traced back to the “Council of Ferrara-Florence” (1438-1445) at which Orthodox Bishops (including the Patriarchate of Constantinople) from the dying Byzantine Empire entered into a “union” with the Rome pontiff. At this union, the Orthodox hierarchs compromised the faith and accepted the Latin heresies of papal supremacy, purgatory, the filioque, and azymes (the Latin use of unleavened bread for communion). One of the primary motivating factors was the hope of attaining military support from the West against the explosive strength of the Ottoman Turks. The Union of Florence was signed by the then Byzantine Emperor and almost every Orthodox Bishop of Byzantium, except for one – St. Mark of Ephesus. Thanks to his steadfast holding to Orthodoxy and the rejection of the Union by most of the population of Constantinople, this Union was never put into full effect, although it was officially ratified by the Roman pontiff. A number of Orthodox bishops reneged their signing upon returning home. Help never came from Rome. Constantinople fell in 1453. Hope was placed in “princes of men” rather than the High King of Heaven, and the last remains of the Christian Roman Empire were swept from the face of the earth. Apostasy always furthers disaster.
Sometimes the Truth of Orthodoxy is upheld by just a small group of faithful while a great number are willing to compromise for worldly securities.
The apostate Orthodox at Brest referenced the Council of Florence as one of the justifications for their “reunion” with Rome. They were not wrong in their view. They were indeed the spiritual children of those apostates who signed away Orthodoxy at the Council of Florence. Like their forefathers, they signed away Orthodoxy at Brest in the hope of material gain and social prestige. I will repeat, there are a number of historical factors, I have chosen to highlight certain spiritual mentalities and the grave ramifications of those mentalities and actions.
Indeed, at Florence, a novel form of apostasy was germinated. It began to spring forth and bear manifest fruit at the Union of Brest. I have referenced this spiritual principle a number of times in past articles. The novel compromise and deceptive spirit are summed up in this – preserve your outward rites but accept the heart and soul of the Roman pontiff (or another thing foreign to Orthodoxy).
The Lord proclaims the incalculable importance of the heart, “My son give me thy heart” (Prov. 23:26). The devil also understands this spiritual reality. If a person surrenders and gives his heart, he becomes a slave no matter the outward appearance.
Thirty-three articles of the Unia were formulated by the apostate bishops at Brest. Thirty-three is a significant number. Thirty-three articles to surpass the thirty pieces of silver Judas received to betray his Lord and Savior. In the thirty-third year of His earthly life, the Lord Jesus was betrayed to Sanhedrin and Pilate for crucifixion. With thirty-three articles, the cowardly bishops sell the Truth of Orthodoxy at Brest.
A survey of the thirty-three articles reveals the underlying desires of the fallen hierarchs. In sum, they desired to preserve Eastern outward rites and forms while simultaneously accepting Latin doctrine and dogma.
Article one opens with an astoundingly shallow and relativistic statement regarding the vital issue of the procession of the Holy Spirit, “Since there is a quarrel between the Romans and Greeks about the procession of the Holy Spirit, which greatly impedes unity really for no other reason than that we do not wish to understand one another … .” They requested to retain the “Orthodox” use of the creed which did not utilize the filioque. Yet, their given superficial reason that unity is impeded because “we [presumably Orthodox and Romans] do not wish to understand one another” only reveals their own paltry understanding of the theological realities upon which the creed is founded and the subsequent Orthodox rejection of the heresy of the filioque. I cannot help but be reminded of the current mentalities, even among Orthodox, in modern “dialogues.” Disagreements on Chalcedon? It’s just a big misunderstanding! Linguistic mistakes! The fathers during that time did not really understand! Relativism and reductionism are hallmarks of the beginning steps of apostasy.
In article five the Uniates agree to follow the church (i.e. Rome) on the doctrine of purgatory. In article six they accept the “New” (Gregorian) calendar but request the Greek Paschalia not be violated.2 It is very interesting that the Unia was the first to enter into the “New” calendar. This point would be worth exploring in more depth, moreover, since in the 20th century many Orthodox Churches adopted the “New” calendar initially under the instigation of the masonic Patriarch of Constantinople and Alexandria, Meletius (Metaxakis)3 of ignominious memory. One of his clear goals was also a “reunion” with Rome (and others). In other words, he desired an Unia also. The action of forcing, in some cases aggressively, the “New” calendar resulted in a very sad division among Orthodox that may have otherwise been avoided. In the attempt to bring Orthodox closer to “Western Christians,” a fracturing ensued in Orthodoxy, which resulted in the number of “Old Calendar” Churches (primarily of Greek origin). It has also resulted in the sad reality that the unity of Liturgical prayer life has been disrupted, Orthodox no longer are all celebrating and praying on the same day, rather a division of thirteen days exists.4 This is lamentable. At current, one may witness the “New” calendar being exploited as a weapon against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has maintained the unchanged “Old” calendar.
A number of the articles of union touched upon legal and church order and proceedings, all of which bear a certain interest and indication of motivating factors. In the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, it seems that Latin hierarchs held positions of authority in the king’s senate. In article twelve the Ruthenian hierarchs asked for the same privilege. Indisputably, prior to the Union of Brest, the Orthodox faithful under Polish-Lithuanian rule were treated poorly and many times existed as second-class citizens. They were persecuted on a social level due to their faithfulness to Orthodoxy. The apostate Ruthenian hierarchs appear to be eager to have a good social standing and were in part willing to compromise the Truth of Orthodoxy to attain a better social standing and approval. “So that our authority would be greater and we should govern our faithful with greater respect, we ask seats in the Senate of the King’s Grace for the Metropolitain and the bishops. We ask this for many reasons for we have the same office and hierarchical dignity as the Roman Bishops.” So speak those who care for guarantees of earthly authority.
Of course, if one desires worldly authority, then Rome is the place to go.
A time of bitter opposition began between those who accepted the Union and those who opposed it.
The Union eventually led to “The establishment of a parallel Orthodox hierarchy in 1620 which split Metropolitanate of Kyiv into two juxtaposing jurisdictions. Naturally, this resulted in an increase of sectarian violence over the ownership of church properties”5 In much of what is modern-day Ukraine, two parties were active, one was the Canonical Orthodox Church and the other was a pseudo-orthodox church in union with Rome. I think some parallel to modern circumstances is evident.
By the 18th century, the Unia became the dominant religion in what is modern-day Western Ukraine. As with most religions under the Soviet Union, it was heavily suppressed and experienced a renewal after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
I have outlined the birth of the Unia because I believe it is the model for the new false unions that are taking place in our times, and the methods used to implement it are similar to those used today.
A New Method of “Unity”
The Unia, even within the ranks of Rome, indicated a change in method for achieving subservience to Rome. Formerly, Rome viewed its Roman rites as superior to the Eastern and a vital aspect to accept when entering into union with Rome. It seems that the Jesuit missionaries in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth were integral to the Roman acceptance of a new form of “union,” one in which the Latin rites are optional, as it were. The Jesuits came to a revolutionary understanding – one can “convert” the Orthodox without a demand for external change. They found that many were willing to convert to Latinism if they were permitted to retain their outward customs and rites and were afforded a social standing on par with the Latin adherents in Western Empires.
In this way, apostasy would be obfuscated. Many times, early in the Unia, simple Orthodox faithful would end up attending a Uniate church without it being evident and clear. Yes, and here is the rub, for the Latins this subversive method was validated because it was achieving the “greater good” of reuniting people to communion with the Roman pontiff. Sadly they found sufficient help from formerly Orthodox clergy.
Rites devoid of Heart
What the pagan Roman Emperors were unable to do to the Orthodox Christian faithful of the early Church, the Roman pontiff was successful in implementing. In pagan Rome, Christians were told many times, “fine, believe in this Christ in your heart, only externally offer incense to the gods.” Christians refused and were martyred because they understood that the externals cannot be disconnected from the internals. There must be a harmonious agreement between the two. Thus, the Christian martyrs would not do something externally that betrayed the inner life and faith they had in Christ the Lord. Rome learned and changed its method, keep your externals and offer incense on the altar of the pontiff in your heart (through accepting Latin dogmas). It inverted the proposition. And a number of purported Orthodox in Ruthenia accepted this proposition, which is a thousand times worse than that offered by the pagan Emperors. For the sake of externals and social standing, they were willing to sacrifice their Christian hearts. The Christian martyrs of old upheld faithfully the symphony of outward and inner action; the Unia brutally ripped out and severed the heart of Orthodoxy so to preserve its “external” existence.
This tactic has become, I believe, one of the primary tactics in seducing Orthodox Christians into apostasy. And it will be, and is, an optimal tactic of the modern world in its war against true Christianity. It is a proposition of the antichrist spirit. This spirit understood that with time Christians had become externalized to a degree and that they now will value externals above the inner life. This was also manifested under the Soviet attack on the Orthodox Church, pressure was brought to bear to preserve the external institutional side of the Church at the price of the internal freedom of the Holy Spirit and His vivifying Truth – pressure was brought to bear to harmonize the institution of the Church with the goals of Sovietism. What is known commonly as “Sergianism” is of the same spirit as the Unia, they are simply manifested differently. One subjected itself to Rome, the other to the Soviet powers. The tactic is of the same spirit.
The diablos delights in dialectic opposition. For the true Christian, as with the early martyrs, there is no opposition between inner and outward life. Both flow from the life in Christ and thus are harmonized in totality. The spirit of the Unia, as with Sergianism, contends in its actions that the inner life of Orthodoxy, which formed and gave birth to the visible rites, can be sacrificed. Then the externals become the vehicle for a new “gospel” such as either Latinism or Sovietism. Ultimately, these do not even have a concern for rites, rather they desire to preserve institutional standing at the price of Ecclesial reality. The outward form of “Orthodoxy” becomes a needed tool to seduce the faithful away into apostasy. Even the devil disguises himself as an angel of light.6 It contends that a new heart, a new soul, can be transplanted into Orthodoxy and somehow it remains Orthodox. Yet, this spirit knows that once it possesses the heart it has the man. The external rites detached from the life-giving heart of Holy Orthodoxy, which is the Faith of Jesus Christ, will become dead, powerless, and graceless. It becomes authentic dead religion. Institution devoid of the Body of Christ becomes a terrible thing, moreover when it still masquerades as something Christian. Instead of a living body is becomes a putrid decaying corpse.
In Holy Orthodoxy, the guarding of the heart is vital to true spiritual life.
External rites devoid of Christ’s Church are dead
It is for this reason the Creed defines the Church as “One, Holy, Catholic,7 and Apostolic.” This is the qualitative and essential life and spiritual potency of the Church of Christ, without which one is left with only spiritual death. The rites and customs of the Church are living and grace-filled because, and in as much as, they flow from the Theanthropic Church. They are manifestations of the grace and mystery of the Holy Spirit at work in the Body of Christ. St. Justin Popovich teaches, “All divine reality, incarnate in Christ the Theanthropos, unceasingly pours forth the innumerable and immeasurable divine powers indispensable to men for salvation, for their deification, their life in Christ, in the Church, in the Spirit, in the Holy Trinity … In the Church, everything is theanthropic because everything is from the Theanthropos.”8 Properly speaking, Orthodox rites are the manifestation of the power of Christ in His Church. If the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” faith is compromised and replaced with heresy, then the outward rites wither and become dead forms devoid of grace. It becomes institution “empty, swept, and put in order.” Then the unclean spirit may come with “seven others more evil than he; and they enter and dwell there” (cf. Matt. 12: 43ff).
Unfortunately, a rather magical approach to rites has been embraced by people today. At times the rites (mysteries) of the Church are treated in a manner similar to spells. If the proper incantation is performed then the proper efficacy must be elicited, even if pronounced outside the Church. This extends from the progressive anti-ecclesiastic philosophies that have been developed over the past centuries, being explicitly manifest in modern ecumenism. Modern men profess the Church is not One but divided, for example. This is impossible and contrary to sound Christian teaching. People and groups of people may leave the Church but it is never divided. They even may establish competing groups with the Church and claim to be a church, but such actions do not violate the essential Unity of the Church. These groups may even utilize the Orthodox rites or something similar. There can never be two or any subsequent number of churches. The Church is concretely One because it shares this divine attribute from it Head, Who is Jesus Christ our God. He is never divided, moreover, the Holy Trinity is never divided. It is impossible.
The issue of baptism exemplifies this mentality. Many even in Orthodoxy hold to the idea that if a “proper form” was followed then somehow a degree of efficacy is accomplished. Whereas baptism is not exclusively a form but rather a mystery that flows from the grace and power of Christ in His Church, it is a Theanthopric reality. Without the Church, there is no baptism. Thus, if one is not truly united to and living in the Church then one has no grace to impart, even if the correct form (or one similar to a correct form) is followed. The external form of a rite may be performed but if it is performed detached from the heart and Unity of the Church it is empty and graceless (i.e. it is not a true Christian mystery). The Creed also purposely and specifically professes “I believe … in one Baptism” because baptism is the exclusive prerogative of the One Church. Outside of Her, no matter the form followed, there is no mystery and grace of Baptism. There may be a form, but form separated from and devoid of the heart of the Church is empty and ultimately useless.
The modern idea holds, as it were, that there is some transcendent form of baptism out there and unity is brought to the fragmented multiplicity of “Christian denominations” through a general “shared” baptism. It completely disincarnates baptism from the Body of the Living Christ, which according to the Scriptures and Holy Fathers is indisputably the Church. True baptism is found in this Body and nowhere else, even if the form is mimicked. A vague nebulous unity is not found in a transcendent form of baptism but rather in the concrete and incarnate reality of a person physically entering the One Church of Christ through the one womb of the Church – holy baptism. Do you desire Christian unity? Then repent and return to the One Holy Church. That’s Christian unity.
This same principle undergirding baptism may be extended to all of the mysteries and rites of the Orthodox Christian Church.
Any person could feasibly buy orthodox vestments, and accouterments, and study and perform the Liturgical rite but it would by no means be a true Divine Liturgy. It would be dead and counterfeit. It would be performed cut off from the Theanthropic reality of Christ’s Body. It would not even matter if it were executed in the most perfect liturgical fashion, it would still be lifeless. The supposed eucharist offered in such a liturgy would be nothing more than mere bread and wine, even if the “correct” anaphora prayers were spoken over them. In the Church, the internal and the visible externals are always held in a perfect harmony and unity. The Divine Liturgy is Divine because it is a mystery of Christ Jesus Himself in His Body the Church.
“Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Many will say, Lord, Lord, did we not speak many things in Thy Name, did we not wear nice vestments, swing pretty censers, and use proper rites? “And then I will profess to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work lawlessness.”9 It is blatant lawlessness to seek the things of the Church without Christ’s Holy Church. It is a spirit of lawlessness.
It is not enough to dress up and play Orthodoxy (such as the Unia) a person must be becoming and deepening himself in the heart of the Holy Faith, upholding it and guarding it. A believer is a believer because he is being united to Christ.
The Scriptures proclaim this principle with these words, “I am the vine, the true one, and My Father, is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me which bears not fruit He takes away; and every branch which bears fruit, He prunes it, in order that it may bear more fruit.”10
Although, at times the largeness of externals may be reduced or curbed with no effect on the internal essential life, for example, in times of persecution believers are expelled from church buildings and many times gather in homes or forests for prayer. The mysteries are confined, as it were, to the catacombs. The external compression and reduction in the largeness of outward expression in no way damages the internal life and potency, in fact, most of the time persecutions (which may effect a restriction of external expression) facilitate a deepening of the internal life and mystery in Orthodox Christians. Yet, there has never been a time when the essential inner life of the Church was compromised for the sake of the preservation of external expression and institution and it resulted in a deepening of the Faith. Typically it leads to great compromise and or outright apostasy. The Unia is an example of this.
The fullness of the inner life and Faith of the Church may never be reduced or curbed.
The Emerging Unia Today
The method of the Unia is to seduce Orthodox Christians to accept another heart in place of the Orthodox Faith but all the while maintaining and permitting external rites. The devil knows that the external rites will wither and die (becoming truly dead form) once cut off from the Life-giving grace of the Holy Spirit energizing in the true confession and holding fast to the Orthodox Faith in the One Church. The Unia was a beta version of the “new” tactic of the enemy to lead Orthodox Christians away from the faith, all the while allowing them to retain the outward forms of Orthodoxy.
The evident and open war on True Orthodoxy today exemplifies just how much the devil hates it. He will tolerate the external as long as they are dismembered from the Vine of Christ in His Church. This is why false structures are being built according to an external Orthodox form. Externally it appears pleasing, like a beautiful crypt but it is still filled with dead men’s bones. The so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” created by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is another version of this spiritual deception. The “Ukrainian” church in America under the EP openly prays with Uniates, thus making them Uniates. These are just a few sad examples. How many Orthodox are involved in “joint prayer” services with even those who have not even the least Christian profession? How many even Orthodox have spit on Christ Jesus by signing declarations which proclaim that all religions are “equal”? How many speak of a generic idea of “God” and shy away from declaring the Name of Jesus for fear of “offense”?
The modern ecclesioclastic phenomenon of ecumenism11 seeks to synthetically mimic the True Unity of the Church by creating a collective of antichurch, which seeks the new head of Antichrist in place of Christ Jesus.
Remember the spirit of the Antichrist has been at work since the time of the Apostles.
There is only One Way, Truth, and Life – the Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ and He has one Church. Many cannot see it because they are blinded by the boulders of their own delusions which prevent them from beholding the Truth.
Once any Orthodox person begins to sacrifice the unique Truth of Jesus Christ, they have set their foot upon the path to the abyss of apostasy. They are raising the knife to remove the Heart of the Faith. They will be left with a stinking corpse.
I have said it many times and I’ll say it again, a “new” progressive “Orthodoxy” is being offered to people, one that is seeking union with Rome, promoting LGBTQism, deconstruction of the saints, relativism, ecumenism, open fellowship with false brethren, and so on. I would recommend the reader read these significant articles by Fr. John Whiteford on this subject. In America Archbp. Elpidophoros is at the forefront of the deconstruction of Orthodoxy. He is an advocate of the “new” Unia, which is only death. He actively promotes the false “church” in Ukraine. Other mouthpieces of the Nuevo-Unia are also death-bearing institutions such as, “orthodoxy in Dialogue,” “Fordham orthodox Studies,” “The Wheel,” “Public orthodoxy,” and the “Huffington Ecumenical Institute.” For the sake of appeasing the world and receiving approbation from it, they are eager to sacrifice the inner Faith and Life of the Church. All of these are anti-Orthodox organs that pose themselves as Orthodox for the purpose of removing the heart from the Orthodox Faith and replacing it with the new syncretistic religion of godless ecumenism. But don’t worry, you can keep your external rites. And you can trust them because they are intellectuals.
Part two of this article will be released shortly.
1Lands that include portions of modern-day Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine.
2Rome and the Orthodox Church have different methods for the calculation of Pascha/Easter.
3Patriarch of Constantinople from 1921-23; Patriarchate of Alexandria from 1926-35.
4Some Orthodox are still faithful to the Julian or “Old” calendar while others have embraced the Gregorian or “New” calendar.
6Cf. 2 Cor. 11:14
7In Slavonic the word is “Sobornost” which is “Conciliarity.” It denotes the fullness, as in nothing lacking, of the Faith.
8The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism. Lazarica Press. pg. 61.
9cf. Matt. 7:21ff
10Cf. John 15:1
11Ecumenism is very different from the Christian goal of living, as best as possible, in peace with our neighbors and treating them with Christian love and respect. Ecumenism demands the active corporate prayer and worship of Orthodox with heterodox and those of even totally non-Christian religions. It seeks to silence the voice of the Church in its proclamation of the fullness of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It paints such a stance as “narrow-minded, extremist, fundamentalist, fanatical, bigoted,” and so forth. Sadly, some in Orthodoxy comply.