Orthodox America

  Letters from Russia

Dear Fr. S.:

       Yesterday I received your letter. I couldn't read it without tears. We are very indebted, grateful to you for your confidence. The letter's arrival during Great Lent was timely; it gave us such spiritual support! We shall treasure the icon you sent for the rest of our earthly life. And we shall try, with God's help, to be worthy of your trust.. Thank you, again, for remembering us.

        But amid the cares of daily life it's so hard to leave that exalted, harmonious construct of the soul, received early in Se morning from the appointed Gospel and Epistle readings. Ail the people where I work are worldly, raised on militant atheism (I work as an engineer in a city laboratory). As far as I am able, I try to answer questions about the meaning of life, about Christianity. In vain, it seems; I've rarely heard any response other than laughter. Furthermore, you've probably heard that nationalism (animosity towards other nationalities) here is widespread. When at work there was such talk in my presence, i.e., that all "foreigners" should be hung etc., I couldn't stand it and expressed my position and what was said on this subject in the Scripture. In answer I was warned that if Jewish pogroms began, they would remember that I had defended the Jews, or if there should be a return to Stalinism, they would likewise remember. But, glory to God, so far all is peaceful. My situation is made more difficult by the fact that my immediate boss holds to the teachings of yoga, although he does not adhere to the religion's, moral and ethical principles. Even though he is my boss, I have no right to keep silence when, in my presence, he deliberately tells some lie about Christianity or speaks about some demonic teaching. As it is said, "in the last times many will come in My name and will deceive many..." But it is also written, "ye shall know them by their fruits." And there are many sources of deception. There's a lot of talk about Kashpirovsky and Chumak (you've probably heard about these "magicians"); their actions give them away, but people are blind to this! And many people go to our Orthodox churches not for inner spirituality, for depth, but only for external ritual! As they say, they are already satiated, already rich. Parishes themselves contribute to this situation, setting unreasonable prices for all services. It's all right for someone who works, who can pay for the funeral of a close one, for example. But there's no allowance for someone who receives a miserly pension (one could list many dramatic examples). In churches they are now selling the newspaper, Moscow Church Herald, and again, each parish hikes the price, which is already high. For pensioners it's out of reach. How much kinder it would be if we ourselves, voluntarily, would donate to parishes, according to each one's ability, and that services would be affordable to all. And how bitter it is to see candles snatched from candle-stands and resold! They aren't even subtle about it. Of course, at places such as the Danilov Monastery or Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra this may not hold, but it's the case in many ordinary parishes. And the Moscow Patriarchate doesn't care to do anything about it.

        As much as possible, we try to explain to whoever wants to listen that here Orthodoxy is not what it should be, that the Church is not guilty of this--she is holy; rather, it is the fault of our ecclesiastical politics which is deformed, just as is our entire society. To some I give to read the brochure you sent about the Church Abroad, to give them an idea of where genuine Orthodoxy is to be found, and where only external. While there exists the Russian Church Abroad, as I wrote earlier, the candle of Holy Russia will keep burning, there will be co-suffering, there will be charity. If only this horrendous sickness of ir-reconciliation, hypocrisy, and external well-being would not spread beyond our borders. May the Lord protect you all from these conditions in which we are forced to live.

       Once again, there are no words to express our gratitude to you.

German, Moscow

Dear in the Lord, M.:

        ...In baptism I was given the name Michael, in honor of Archangel Michael. According to Holy Tradition, following the book of Daniel, Archangel Michael is the intercessor for the Jewish people. I was baptized at night, on the eve of the feast of St. James, the Brother of the Lord and the first bishop of the Church of Jerusalem. On that occasion my spiritual father gave me an icon of the Saviour from Jerusalem, with a blessing from the Holy City. All this was not fortuitous: in the Church I found my homeland, my people, my history; in the Church I became a Jew. Before my baptism, at the age of 23, I lived as a pagan; I was raised in the Russian culture and knew no other. As far as nationalism or internationalism is concerned, to me these are criteria of a pagan worldview....As Christians we are one, if only we truly belong to Christ. The same blood flows in us--the blood of Christ. We are God's people, brothers and sisters sharing one life with God...Listen to what Apostle Paul, the "apostle to the Gentiles", writes: If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:29). Abraham-he was the first Jew mentioned by Holy Scripture. Jew-Hebrew means "stranger": God chose Abraham from the history of fallen humanity, which threw itself into an abyss of nonexistence and wickedness through sonship with the devil. He chose him in order to begin with him the history of a new humanity, repentant, cleansed, wandering as strangers in the fallen world in search of the Kingdom of Heaven through sonship with God...

        ...Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in (Rom. 11:25). This time of torment of the Jewish people has already drawn out for nearly two thousand years, in part because a majority of Jews are not eagerly awaiting and seeking their Messiah, distracted by worldly interests; and in part because many peoples who came to Christ have fallen away from Him, losing His Light; they substitute oneness in the Spirit with nationalist unity, and they call this the Church. But the Jews will not come to such a "Church", nor will other peoples, and this "Church" will not accept them, being essentially racist, merely clothed in Christian garments.

        In historical, empirical Church reality, the tares are somehow mixed up with the wheat; true church life is closely bound up with a false church life, and to our inexperienced eyes it is not always possible to discern in what current of spiritual life we find ourselves, what traditions we are following. I bring up this question because on it, just as also on many others, depends are eternal life...

        We were born in Europe. The origins of its history and culture are considered to be Christian. In spite of this, for Jews (regardless of their faith) life there was difficult. Their history there ended in catastrophe - the destruction of six million--one third of their population. And if it were not for God, the God of the Jews, the God of the Christians, they would have been destroyed to the last. At that time both in Europe and here in Russia there were societies engaged in "cleansing" the Holy Scriptures of "everything Jewish," and proving that Christ was not a Jew. Even now in Russia, a similarly oriented society, "Pamyat'," is active. Why?

        I'll tell you what is most surprising to me. Here in the local Church I have many genuine and loyal friends. But even among them there are few who are completely free of any tinge of anti-Semitism. These are people leading a high level spiritual life. And they themselves suffer abuse for their spirit, for the spirit of Christ. Their brethren often spread rumors about them that they are Jews...! Why?

        Forgive me for such a long discussion on the Jewish question. You can find out everything for yourself in the epistles of the Apostles... Mikhail