Brothers and Sisters:
Let us glorify the Saviour of mankind and magnify His Most Pure Mother!
The Holy Virgin kept for us in her heart the glad tidings which the shepherds heard from the angel (Luke 2:17-19). And she will likewise find room in her heart for our prayers of this holy season. With this assurance, let us fulfill the will of God, "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16).
Just now, we have yet another, a special reason to value the years that lie immediately ahead of us. A thousand-year period in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church is drawing to a close. Five years separate us from that significant day in 1988 which marks the thousand-year a anniversary of the Baptism of Russia. Some of us have but five years left to live, others a few more, others less. This should make us stop and think.
At the same time, by the prayers of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, we have in Russia new witnesses, bold accusers of the violence against the Church. Among them is Deacon Vladimir Rusak who set himself the task of writing the history of the Russian Church in the period since 1917. His archives and the most nearly completed copy of his work were, of course, confiscated by the KGB. Whether we shall ever have a chance of reading this book, I do not know. But we are grateful to the author for its title: “The Incriminating Evidence”. For this evidence-Fr. Vladimir already lost his position as one of Moscow's leading clergy, and for his lenten sermon in Vitebsk--in which he spoke exceptionally powerfully concerning Russia's New Martyrs--Fr. Vladimir was sent to a monastery. What more awaits him?
May the Lord remember him, together with Fr, Gleb Yakunin, Igor Ogurtsov, Zoya Krakhmalnikova, and others there who have valued the truth and have labored to redeem the time, taking advantage of the short time that was theirs.
Here are the words of Fr. Vladimir concerning the New Martyrs:
"Not only have we sacrilegiously forgotten the blood they shed and the sufferings which they endured, but we have criminally slandered their deeds. Instead of pointing to those who have been the cause of their martyrdom, we resort to casuistry and lay the blame on these martyrs themselves: we blame them for having been disloyal to the government authorities. Yet what position should a normal churchman adopt towards the atheistic, and furthermore, anti-Christian government?"
How can we, here in freedom, worthily make use of the years ahead? In Russia, despite the persecution, not a little has already been said--and so powerfully, if only by a few.
The "builders of socialism and communism" have thought up their godless five-year plans. Let us counteract their ruinous activity. Asking God's blessing, let us today declare our own five-year plan, a five-year crusade towards that cherished goal: the millennium of Russia's Baptism. And with this millennium, we make bold to hope for the freedom of our Church, the freedom of Russia, and our common spiritual rebirth.
Let us dedicate these next five years to what Bishop Theophan the Recluse termed, “attuning ourselves the spiritual life":', Let us consider the years ahead as a time of extreme urgency. And let us not spare ourselves in working towards our goal.
our labors in these next five years serve as our gift to the Christ Child, and
may they be as precious in His sight as gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Archbishop Anthony of Western America and San Francisco