Old Believers

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What can you tell me about the Old Believers?

From what I read, they were Orthodox Russians who broke away because they disagreed with the patriarch's reforms.

What reforms, specifically, did they disagree with, and how else do they differ from Orthodox Christianity?
 

HTacianas

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What can you tell me about the Old Believers?

From what I read, they were Orthodox Russians who broke away because they disagreed with the patriarch's reforms.

What reforms, specifically, did they disagree with, and how else do they differ from Orthodox Christianity?

It's a somewhat complex story. The Russian Church wanted to change some of its practices in order to align with the Greek Church's practices, which differed slightly. One thing you'll find about Orthodox Christians is they do not change. To reject change is to protect against innovation and heresy. For example, one of the changes was the manner in which the fingers are held when blessing oneself (making the sign of the cross). The Greek Church held their fingers in one manner, while the Russian Church held their fingers in another manner. There were also other more pressing things, but the Old Believers refused to accept any of them. After a long and sometimes violent struggle, the Old Believers broke away from the Russian Church. Ironically, it turned out that the Russian Church had been right all along and it was the Greek Church that had erred. That didn't help at all.
 
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ArmyMatt

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there are also Old Believers who remained in the Church, and others who returned.

and the practical changes they didn’t like weren’t theological errors that would justify breaking away. the Old Believers who are outside the Church are the ones in error.
 
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Lukaris

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From what I recall they are hung up on how to make the sign of the Cross. They seemed deeply mistaken on a technicality but they were also shabbily treated for it. Basically they are insular, harmless farmers ( usually).
 
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Lukaris

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They suffered sporadic persecutions for centuries. Katherine the Great ended persecutions in her reign but it revived later on.




Government oppression could vary from relatively moderate, as under Peter the Great(reigned 1682–1725) (Old Believers had to pay double taxation and a separate tax for wearing a beard)—to intense, as under Tsar Nicholas I (reigned 1825–1855). The Russian synodal state church and the state authorities often saw Old Believers as dangerous elements and as a threat to the Russian state.

In 1762, Catherine the Great passed an act that allowed Old Believers to practise their faith openly without interference.[21] In 1905, Tsar Nicholas II signed an act of religious freedom that ended the persecution of all religious minorities in Russia. The


 
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The Liturgist

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there are also Old Believers who remained in the Church, and others who returned.

and the practical changes they didn’t like weren’t theological errors that would justify breaking away. the Old Believers who are outside the Church are the ones in error.

Indeed, particularly the Priestless Old Believers.

On the other hand those who have returned to full communion are very nice people; I particularly like the Church of the Nativity in Erie, Pennyslvania, and I have their excellent liturgical books and several of their lestovkas. I happen to prefer the lestovka to the more modern prayer rope (I also managed to buy a genuine leather lestovka, albeit one configured for the Prayer Rule of St. Seraphim of Sarov, but one can also use it for praying the Jesus Prayer like a conventional prayer rope, for $10 at a parish sale at the ROCOR parish in Las Vegas, and normally those cost like $180, so I am very comfortable for that as it is extremely comfortable to use).
 
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ArmyMatt

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Indeed, particularly the Priestless Old Believers.

On the other hand those who have returned to full communion are very nice people; I particularly like the Church of the Nativity in Erie, Pennyslvania, and I have their excellent liturgical books and several of their lestovkas. I happen to prefer the lestovka to the more modern prayer rope (I also managed to buy a genuine leather lestovka, albeit one configured for the Prayer Rule of St. Seraphim of Sarov, but one can also use it for praying the Jesus Prayer like a conventional prayer rope, for $10 at a parish sale at the ROCOR parish in Las Vegas, and normally those cost like $180, so I am very comfortable for that as it is extremely comfortable to use).
agreed
 
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The Liturgist

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A few other notes on the canonical Old Rite Orthodox (as opposed to the schismatic Old Believers):

The traditional Old Rite configuration of the Lestovka however is what I particularly like, because it can be used to track the number of Kyrie Eleisons, the number of prayers of St. Ephraim the Syrian (who is naturally one of my favorite saints given my love for Syriac Christianity) and the Jesus Prayer, and what is more, one doesn’t have to use it in the normal way; since it contains so many different counters, one can use it as an adding machine, to do multiplication, and as a result it can support a variety of different programs for saying daily prayers, this being particularly easy if one uses one of the different sets of counters and/or the spacers that separate the sections which it is outfitted with.

Also there was an Old Rite parish in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate that had taken refuge from the reign of Czar Peter the Great in Turkey, which however was forced to emigrate in the 1960s*, and this parish periodically celebrated the Divine Liturgies of St. Mark, St. James and St. Peter in addition to those of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great and the Presanctified Liturgy of St. Gregory Diologos, the three less frequently used liturgies being bound together in an additional Sluzhbenik (Liturgikon). Unfortunately since it was an old manuscript, the Turks prevented them from taking it with them out of the country on the grounds of it being an antiquity (but have since naturally lost it, as one would expect, since the goal of the Turks was not really to preserve an item of Turkish cultural heritage but rather to harass a vulnerable Christian group and destroy a valuable Christian liturgical text). Fortunately, a Greek manuscript, the Rosanno Manuscript, with the same three liturgies, was found on Mount Athos, and later a Serbian manuscript containing the Church Slavonic recension of the Divine Liturgy of St. Peter, which has since 1961 (when the Rossano manuscript was found) been used by some segments of the Western Rite Orthodox community, in particular I think those in the ROCOR Western Rite quite like it.

Now admittedly the Western Rite is controversial, and was opposed by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware among others; I myself support Western Rite Orthodoxy, and I also support Russian Old Rite Orthodoxy, because my own view is that I would rather have people with diverse liturgies in communion with canonical Orthodox Churches rather than remaining in schism. Indeed I greatly wish the Antiochians or another canonical Orthodox church would establish a Maronite Orthodox vicarate, because the Maronite Catholic liturgy was particularly devastated after the devastation inflicted on the Roman Rite by the Concilium (the group tasked with implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium, which actually deviated from the instructions, but that of course is an internal Roman Catholic issue). I believe that the recent capitulation of Pope Francis on the issue of homosexuality with Fiducia Supplicans creates an urgency for the conversion of Roman Catholics to Holy Orthodoxy, and at present there isn’t an option that lets Maronites comfortably retain the West Syriac rite, since they had a nasty schism with the Syriac Orthodox which is believed to be due to the Maronites at one time having embraced the heresy of Monothelitism, and there is some speculation that this is why they were enthusiastic about entering into communion with the RCC (which they denied when they left) when the Crusaders arrived, because of Pope Honorius I supporting the heresy and so on, however the Roman Catholics having participated with us in the Sixth Ecumenical Synod in Constantinople were naturally keen to extirpate that heresy and as a result no trace of it remains, but Maronite liturgical texts that predate the schism (and the liturgical change following Vatican II) have a tendency to be highly similiar to Syriac Orthodox liturgical texts. At any rate I digress.

Speaking of digressions, there is a retired United Airlines pilot who is printing such a T shirt due to his tendency to, like me, make frequent recourse to such a phrase. He has a YouTube channel which has quickly eclipsed Mentour and 74gear to become my favorite aviation related YouTube channel. He was a flight engineer, copilot and captain on one of my favorite aircraft, the Boeing 727, and was captain on the 737-200, 727-200, Airbus A319/A320 and finally retired as a Boeing 777-200 Captain in 2015, and before flying for United he was a test pilot for the airforce, and during a furlough from United from 1979-85 he worked as a test pilot for Cessna and then Boeing, and he later chaired the Aircraft Evaluation committee for ALPA (which is the main pilots union, although curiously American Airlines pilots have their own union, the Allied Pilots Association, and this has resulted in occasional silly enmity between AA pilots and pilots from other airlines, although on a darker note it probably contributed to the particularly distressing situation where all TWA pilots lost their seniority and in the ensuing post-9/11 downturn lost their jobs laid off after American acquired that airline in 2001, as soon as everything was consolidated onto the AA certificate which was done by 2003). But there I go again so I suppose I had better get one of his T shirts so I have a ready made excuse.

*This of course being due to the continued persecution of Orthodox Christians in that country (where there have been repeated pogroms even after the Sayfo, which is what the Syriac Orthodox call the dreadful genocide against the Armenians, the Syriac Orthodox and Assyrian Christians, and the Pontic Greek Orthodox in 1915); this killed A majority of Armenian and Syriac Christians who were alive at the time, and I believe it also killed a majority of the Pontic Greeks, who also suffered ethnic cleansing in subsequent decades starting with the forced population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1920.
 
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