Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs – A Need for Co-Suffering Love

      During, these radiant days of Paschal celebration, when we rejoice in the empty tomb and the naked Cross, we must not forget those whose cross still lies heavy upon their shoulders, whose Faith is mocked and crucified, who patiently waft for resurrection. These are cur suffering brothers and sisters in Christ behind the Iron Curtain. In his Paschal Epistle this year, Archbishop Anthony of Western America and San Francisco earnestly calls upon us to share their burden and to ease their grief through heartfelt prayer and co-suffering love.

 Once again we have reached the holy feast of Pascha, which cleanses and softens our unfeeling souls. How gracious and how merciful is the Lord!

     Christ suffered and rose from the dead to save all those who would receive Him (John 1:12), But with what compassion He wept over His own people when, sitting on a donkey, He neared Jerusalem and looked upon that city five days before His death on the Cross. Thus does our Lord set the example for us to have a co-suffering love for our Russian people. Let us think about how they are preparing for Pascha.

     How many different obstacles, great and small, must be overcome in the desire to quietly, and prayerfully meet the blessed Feast of Pascha--without the vexations and forceful interference of the godless. Not only for those in prisons and in camps--although it is especially hard for them--but for all believers it is not so easy to fittingly celebrate the Feast.

      This year there is an added temptation. The Feast of Pascha this year falls on the day commemorated by the Soviets as Lenin's birthday. This coincidence gives the atheist authorities an extra opportunity to deride our holy Faith and to torment the faithful, exhausting them emotionally and physically.

     At the supposed initiative of the "workers' collective of Moscow," on the eve of the 114th anniversary of Lenin’s birth (which falls, alas on Great Saturday!), workers are strongly "encouraged' to spend the day in intense “voluntary” labor in the fields and factories, thus “honoring” their leader." The faithful will thereby be deprived of the chance to be present in their "working" churches or houses of prayer for the Great Saturday Liturgy which is filled with the trembling anticipation of the Paschal night. They will be exhausted when the time comes for the beginning of the Paschal Matins. And before the tired and even tearful eyes of those who are in this way forcibly deprived of the Paschal joy, there will loom huge portraits of that sadistic murderer of the Russian people-Lenin. Such work holidays are called "communist sabbaths".

     This information conies to us from an article bv Archpriest D. Konstantinov which appeared in the Russian newspaper, "Russka Zhizn" (San Francisco, April 12), inspired by feelings which we all should share, Fr. Dimitry calls the Russian faithful to oppose this godless proposal by refusing to participate in the "communist sabbath," and by going instead to their churches and houses of prayer on this holy day. He stresses the fact that 60 million believers is a strength not easily dismissed; he brings to mind the example of the active struggle for the faith in Poland today... :

    My beloved father's and co-pastors, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our flock! You see what an exceptionally heavy lot has befallen the believers in Russia on this year' s Pascha. Let our prayer for them be especially heartfelt during these days of Paschal celebration. May we feel that we are one in spirit with them. And let us say to them from the depths of our hearts: "Christ is Risen, beloved ones! We know your grief, but there is deliverance from sorrow, for Christ indeed is Risen!"

Archbishop Anthony Pascha, 1984