Life principles of the Transfiguration Brotherhood

Let us give our undivided attention and offer up our heart and mind's freedom in its entirety to the grace of revival bestowed upon us.
Bishop Michael (Gribanovsky)

The Transfiguration Brotherhood (or movement) is an informal brotherhood of Orthodox Christians who recognise and are fulfilling their calling by supporting the revival of the fullness of church life and all church ministries.

I. Fundamental life principles of the Transfiguration Brotherhood

Ecclesiality

This refers to a fundamental, indissoluble internal and external bond with the church as 'the Body of Christ', and specifically with the Russian Orthodox Church. We are determined not to be separated from Orthodoxy under any circumstances, for "any sin in the church is not a sin of the Church but a sin against the Church" (Fr. Valentin Sventsitsky). This means faithfulness to Christ's Church and understanding that the Brotherhood is only one part of this Church. For us, belonging to the Church is more important than belonging to the Brotherhood; still more important is our love for God and our neighbour.

Respecting and Valuing each Person

We believe in a non-formal and non-utilitarian attitude to each and every person. This means supporting the discovery of their personal gifts, which is made possible by attaining freedom from 'the spirit of the age' with its culture of self-expression, acquisitiveness and consumerism. Overcoming individualism and self-involvement is another priority. We consider it unacceptable to ignore or disrespect the value of even a single person when dealing with the most important issues in life.

Non-hierarchicality

This means never "placing oneself higher than others in the church, let alone higher than the church itself, or claiming to speak for the church in any special way" (protopresbyter Nikolay Afanasiev). Setting up an alternative hierarchy is unacceptable, but the principle of eldership and the mystical hierarchy must be upheld ("the one who is closer to God is more senior" and elders are chosen by God).

Responsibility

All that is being and has been done should be examined in the Holy Spirit and by 'the council of many'; errors and sins must be corrected personally or in fellowship. Each person owns responsibility for everyone in their community and brotherhood, and for everything within themselves and within the church.

Service

We dedicate all of our time, energy and resources to fulfilling the commandment to love God and neighbour, in imitation of Christ, who "did not come to be served but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). Our service is manifest out of the abundance of our hearts, specifically in those gifts which we have received from the Holy Spirit in the Church –as a brotherhood, in our communities, and personally.

Unceasing Renewal and the Comprehensive Churching of Life

We grow in Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit in order to give God the opportunity to “make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Instead of being a 'clot' in the body of the Church, we should maintain our ability not only to respond quickly and with precision to any significant developments in the church and society, but also to compensate for any deficiencies and be “ahead of the times” (in accordance with the patristic principle that “the Church is always renewing itself”).

Responsibility of the 'Lesser' for the 'Greater' in the Church

Each person is responsible for their group or community, each group or community is responsible for their minor brotherhood, and each minor brotherhood is responsible for the Transfiguration Brotherhood, which is responsible for the church. Members of groups and communities have responsibility for the senior (spiritually or by position) members of all groups and communities, minor brotherhoods and the Transfiguration Brotherhood. This includes responsibility for the spiritual father of the Transfiguration Brotherhood (Fellowship), who is the main witness and servant (guarantor) of the Brotherhood's ecclesiality, that is of its faithfulness to its calling and to all the principles of life it has endorsed.

Peaceful and Uncompromising Resistance to Evil

We are committed to responding reasonably and properly to any quenching of the spirit or distortion of meaning, and to any untruth both in the church (fundamentalism, modernism, clericalism, conformism and politicisation) and society (individualism, divisions, consumerism, aggression, corruption and criminalisation). We are to fear nothing, even to the point of willingness to suffer for Christ at any time. We avoid judging anybody or engaging in fault-finding. "The Word and personal example of righteous living" are our only methods.

Bringing up Children in Full Commitment to a Life of Service

We prepare our children – first and foremost through our own personal example – for a life of high quality and fully-committed service, characterised by an attitude which eschews the pursuit of "me and my own", but is ready rather to share the gifts of love in significant relationships and with neighbours. Both in our families and in fellowship we bring up our children to "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness".

Championing Persons and their Freedom, and the Church and its Sobornost

Championing a person does not mean standing up for some thing or another on behalf of the person, but standing up for the person himself. The struggle within the church is not against some person or another but to secure primacy of position for Christ within the church. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). We are to build communities in a way that honours the person, thus enabling sobornost (church conciliarity). We are to build brotherhoods that honour sobornost, thus supporting the personal development of each individual.

The Brotherhood tries to follow the Gospel in everything, notwithstanding contrary contemporary traditions, habits and external or internal resistance of any kind, including from apparent 'common sense'.

II. This implies:

1. A life of unity for brothers and sisters in christ, shared in communities, groups, minor brotherhoods and the fellowship of minor brotherhoods. This type of living is rooted in fellowship, brotherly agapic (all-encompassing) and friendly love, along with personal monasticism

In particular, this may take the form of a constant, sober and collective turning toward Christ in a monastic spirit, in order to attain the unity of the 'law of faith', the 'law of prayer' and the 'law of life'. It may take the form of regular prayer meetings held at home or elsewhere, reading of the Scriptures, conversation concerning spiritual matters, meals in fellowship following joint Eucharistic communion (agape meals), mutual aid, charitable activities, service in joint brotherly labour, pilgrimages, etc.

While having definite boundaries, the communities and minor brotherhoods nevertheless maintain a certain openness in life, which includes the possibility of taking in new members (in particular, the children of community members). The brotherhood strives to avoid a spirit of sectarianism, elitism, acquisitiveness, hypocrisy, Pharisaism and Sadduceism in any of its manifestations.

2. Witnessing to salvation and transformation in Christ, proclaiming “the Good News of the Kingdom” in word, deed and life

The Brotherhood takes part in the church’s broad and multidimensional mission to bring together and educate people who are sincerely seeking a path to God. Members of the Brotherhood aim to bear witness to the Christian faith and life in the spirit of brotherhood and community, first and foremost by personal participation in the missionary and catechetical ministry.

The Brotherhood works to spread the practice of obligatory education before baptism within the church, i.e. to revive the catechumenate and full pre-baptismal catechesis of the non-baptised, as well as of those who have been “baptised without preparation, in form only, without coming to "be born again" (John 3:7).[1]

The Brotherhood does all it can to promote and deepen the quality of spiritual education, and, in particular, the spiritual formation of Christians of all ages. Each member of the Brotherhood, under typical circumstances, recognises Christian education and discipleship as a gift of God and, thus, as his spiritual duty.

3. Striving for simplicity and openness in Christ and to build Christian unity

Members of the Brotherhood are not shut up inside themselves and their own tradition, but search for Truth everywhere, and upon finding it, accept it and incorporate it into the Church.

While recognising the presence of serious internal problems in the Russian Orthodox Church, the Brotherhood, for its part and to the best of its ability, resists any efforts to provoke schism in the church, speaking out in favour of church dialogue on contentious matters in a spirit of patience and without prejudice, in accordance with the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 11:19): “It is fitting that there be different opinions among you so that there may be revealed among you true opinions”.

While recognising the unity of all Christians as a command of the Saviour (John 17:21), the Brotherhood does not attempt to gloss over confessional differences, but neither does it absolve itself of the responsibility for the common sin of confessional division. Members of the Brotherhood are open to personal fellowship in the spirit of love with representatives of other Christian confessions, as with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Brotherhood has no formal affiliation with any governmental, non-governmental or official church institutions, but works to identify appropriate forms of dialogical engagement for the Church in broader society, and to support the development of specifically Christian society.

4. Participation in eucharistic and liturgical revival

Members of the Brotherhood pursue the fullness of personal and communal participation in the liturgical life of the Church by seeking to implement the spirit and meaning of this liturgy in their own unity. In particular and to this end, the Brotherhood contributes to recovery of a number of ancient traditions which are timely in our contemporary context: congregational singing, the reading of the Eucharistic canon and other congregational prayers aloud and in separation from the singing of the church choir, the kiss of peace for lay people as well as clergy, a sermon after Scripture readings, leaving the Royal Gates permanently open as per Paschal practice, and so on. The Brotherhood also looks for ways to overcome all types of division within church gatherings – first and foremost the division between clergy and lay people.

The Brotherhood participates in and promotes the full revelation of the liturgical and ecclesial (communal and personal) nature of all sacraments within the Church, beginning with Baptism and the Eucharist, and strives for church Sacraments to be understood not as private religious rites and the professional prerogative of clerics, but as the fruit of the common service of all God's people, according to the gift of royal priesthood that God grants to all his people (1 Peter 2:9).

The Brotherhood is in favour of translating the liturgical texts and prayers used in church worship into national languages (first of all, Russian), and, thereby, the incorporation of national-language worship into the life of the Church, putting into practice the words of holy martyr Archpriest Alexander Khotovitsky: “The worthiness of the Slavonic language does not imply the rejection of the translation of books as well as services and prayers into Russian – for by this rejection we would save a penny and lose a pound”.

5. Responsibility for our nation, society and country

While acknowledging its responsibility for the Church, society, the nation and its history, the Brotherhood operates outside of politics, insofar as it is understood to be a struggle for power and personal privilege. The Brotherhood's responsibility for the life of society is manifest in four main areas:

  • championing the revival of the human person, the nation and society;
  • bringing together any and all forces for life within the nation and society;
  • bearing witness to personal truth and to greater Truth/Reality;
  • calling for national repentance, primarity through personal example.

The Brotherhood strives to model Christian relationship both within the church and within society and its institutions, including the family and the state.

For this purpose, members of the Brotherhood are called to sober discernment regarding societal affairs; members of the Brotherhood should be able to distinguish between fact, myth and propaganda. They should avoid drawing hasty conclusions or making rushed decisions, must refuse to 'play someone else's game', etc.

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We consider the words spoken at the end of the 19th century by Bishop Michael (Gribanovsky) of Tavra to be prophetic and relevant today:

“Everywhere possible one must plant the kingdom of love and the harmonious development of the human person in the Spirit with the help of Christ. This, in essence, constitutes the whole of Orthodoxy, all its dogmas, all its ethics, all its sacraments, all its rituals, and its whole life. Our theoretical task consists in explaining Orthodoxy in this sense. Our sole practical task consists in living out such Orthodoxy in our private, family, social and national life. A brotherly union of people who sympathise with and give themselves wholly to this task is the truest first step towards the renewal of Russian Orthodox life. Whether these ideals must be realised in an official way or by way of protest from above or below is all the same; our task is not to discuss what is unknown, but to be ready for it.

Let us give our undivided attention and offer up our heart and mind's freedom in its entirety to the grace of revival bestowed upon us”.

Bishop Michael (Gribanovsky) (1856-1898)

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