Orthodox America


   The 1000th Anniversary of the Baptism of Holy Russia


The thousandth anniversary of the Baptism of Russia by St. Vladimir in 988 will occur in 1988. No one knows what the state of the Russian land will be at that time: whether the Communist Yoke, which would then have passed its seventieth year, will continue as it has up to now, or whether by God's will Communism will have been overthrown and a free Russian Church in a free Russian land will celebrate this millennium in peace.

In any case, the free Russian Church in the emigration has already started its preparations to greet this notable anniversary. For three years now, conferences have been held on both the East and West coasts on the Labor Day weekend with the aim of preparing Russian church people for this event and making them more aware both of the rich and glorious past of Orthodoxy in Russia and its present state of suffering and bonds.

Speakers at these conferences have included both clergy and laymen of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, and the talks have included primarily factual reports of Russia's past, descriptions of the present state of the Orthodox Russian people both in the homeland and in the emigration, and a few inspirational talks by speakers who deeply feel the pain of suffering Russian Orthodoxy today--whether in the persecutions within Russia, or the worldliness and self-forgetfulness of so many in the diaspora.

 

 This year's Labor Day conferences were similar to the three that have preceded them.


THE NEW YORK CONFERENCE 

This year's fourth Russian Orthodox Conference was held not far from New York, on the property of the society "Orrada" near Novo-Diveyevo Convent and the famous Tolstoy Farm. The Conference lasted for three days, from August 30 to September 1.

In his opening talk, Archpriest Alexander Kiselev noted that the theme of the Conference, "Orthodox Russia," had been inspired chiefly by Fr. Dimitry Dudko, who not long before his arrest on January 15 had stated: "Orthodoxv and Russia--this is what I stand on Russia… not simply as a state but Russia as a soil for Orthodoxy."

During the first two days there were talks on the sources of the Russian Revolution, the All-Russian Church Council of 1917-18, the meaning of the Russian emigration, and the religious ideals of Orthodox Russia, There were also several seminars, where smaller groups of people exchanged opinions on some of the questions of the day. The most lively discussion occurred in the seminar led by Fr. Roman Lukianov on the New Martyrs of Russia and their glorification, which is due to be performed by the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia in 1981. Especially sharp was the discussion on the Royal Martyrs, which some think will be regarded as a "political" act; others, however, cited the Holy Passion bearers, Princes Boris and Glebin 11th century Russia who were martyred by their jealous pagan brother, as an example of the self-sacrificing life, entirely dedicated to God, of the new passion-bearers Of the Russian land.

 The last day was devoted to Priests Gleb Yakunin and Dimitry Dudko. Fr. Victor Potapov reported on the recent trial of Fr. Gleb and the "repentance" of Fr. Dimitry. As a sign of solidarity with and support for these prisoners of conscience, and also for their fellow-sufferers Igor Ogufftsov and Vladimir Osipov and their families, the Conference sent the following greeting to them: "Those gathered at the Russian Orthodox Conference for the preparation of the thousandth anniversary of the Baptism of Russia greet you with all their heart and entreat the All-merciful God to look down on the much-suffering Russian people in the homeland and in the diaspora. We remain in prayerful unity with you."

 (From Orthodox Russia, 1980, no. 18, pp. 18-19) 


The Heroic Exploit of Our Days: Father Dimitry Dudko and Those with Him 
Excerpts from Fr. Victor Potapov’s Talk at the New York Conference

Everyone who has come out against Fr. Dimitry or, with the self-satisfied zeal of pharisaic letter-of-the-law, has sought out every mistake of his, and everyone who at the critical moment could have helped and supported him--by prayer or some other way --and did not do this, to some extent is guilty of what happened to him .... Imitating Christ,   and strengthened by faith in Him, we must   stretch out a hand of help, support, and understanding to Fr. Dimitry, Fr. Gleb, and   those with them...

The contemporary state of Russia is thorny, most difficult and complex. The present condition of Russia is not a disgrace or a stigma, but a sign of special closeness to Christ. It is our duty to open our eyes to reality. In our truly Apocalyptic times we are the witnesses of a clear, world-wide demon possession: concentration camps, unheard of mass punishments, atomic and other bombs which are capable of removing whole peoples from the face of the earth ....Are these not  the spasms, the convulsions of a mankind possessed by an evil spirit?

If we are Christians ourselves--may God grant!--we are not such direct participants in all this; but we are still responsible for others, for every kind of evil. The whole of mankind has a single essence, and what happens in one man is communicated to all in some way or another. The least evil of one person increases the weight of the world's sin...

We must support those persecuted for faith and banish the evil spirits which surround them by prayer and fasting. Let us entreat the Lord every day to have mercy on and lighten the lot of those who are under the yoke of godless Communism, and first of all let us commemorate by name each of them at the Divine Liturgy. Let us devote a few minutes of our morning and evening rule of prayer to the persecuted who are in prisons and concentration camps, in psychiatric hospitals, to children who have been forcibly taken from their parents, to those who have lost their jobs for confessing Christ, and to all the courageous shepherds who, despite the unbelievable difficulties, strive to lead their flocks on the true path. And, finally, we should pray for those people and organizations which, here in the West, by their efforts strive to help our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

THE SANTA CRUZ CONFERENCE The West-coast Conference was held on the same three days at one of the colleges of the University of California at Santa Cruz, south of San Francisco. Presided over by Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco and Bishop Nektary of Seattle, this Conference opened with the meeting of the wonderworking Kursk Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, and took place in the midst of daily Divine services, with the Liturgy served each morning and the Vigil or Vespers in the evening.

 The lectures at this year's fourth annual .conference included talks on the historical past of Russian Orthodoxy, beginning with Archbishop Anthony's opening lecture on the early Metropolitans of Kiev, others on the problems of the Russian emigration, and a final talk by Bishop Nektary on the coming glorification of the New Martyrs of Russia, wherein the speaker placed the whole question of suffering Russia today in the theological perspective of the Christian's fight against evil, and first of all, unseen evil.

Much attention was given to the first talk after the Liturgy on Sunday, which was de'' livered by Hieromonk Seraphim of the St Herman of Alaska Monastery near Platina. Many said that this talk summed up for them the meaning of the Conference, and the very fact that it was given mostly in English-which was well .understood by all but a few of the older generation and the newer emigrants--and by an American convert to Orthodoxy, was a good indication that the message of suffering Orthodox Russia today is not at all one directed only to those who are Russian by blood or culture,


The Orthodox Revival in Russia as an Inspiration for American Orthodoxy
Excerpt from the Talk of Hieromonk Seraphim at the Santa Cruz Conference

 

..What is happening in Russia today is of interest to us in America not specifically as something "Russian," but as something that concerns the human soul .... We in America and the free world in general have much to learn from what is happening to the human soul in Russia today.

(After speaking of the common historical situation which prevails both in Russia and the West today--the collapse of the generally believed ideology that underlies society, the widespread sense that civilization has come to a dead-end, and the search for a way out in the form of religious belief--Fr. Seraphim gave a detailed account of the religious conversion of one recent emigrant, Yuri Mashkay, who found a deep Orthodox faith through 17 years of sufferings in Soviet concentration camps. The speaker, compared and contrasted his experiences and sufferings, both in Russia and more recently in America, with the easy path most of us in the West have both in finding and keeping the truth of Orthodoxy. Unknown to the speaker and to most of the people present, this very Yuri Mashkay had died only three days before this, and when this was announced at the end of the talk all present sang for him "Memory Eternal.")

(From this detailed look at one man's spiritual experience, Fr, Seraphim passed to a view of the general picture of what is happening in Russia today. Through the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, he spoke of Gulag--the Soviet prison system—and the spiritual rebirth of the Orthodox people which is coming from within such suffering. Then he continued:)

And what of us in the West, and particularly in America? Do we have any image that explains our situation as well as Gulag does that of Russia? I am afraid that there is an image, most unflattering to us, which is almost our equivalent of Gulag. It is "Disneyland'--an image that exemplifies our carefree love of "fun" (a most un-Christian word), our lack of seriousness, our living in a literal fool' s paradise, unaware or barely aware of the real meaning and seriousness of life.

Anyone who has met or read the writings of people who come from the USSR and, other Communist countries cannot but notice how serious--sometimes to the point of grimness --these people are. I am not saying that we should be grim like that--that would be fakery on our part--but only that we should realize that our experience in freedom and prosperity has to a great extent crippled us spiritually, and that therefore we must expose ourselves to and take deeply to heart the message of men like Solzhenitsyn. We must study the Gulag and make it, to the extent we can, a part of our own experience.

 

(After quoting Solzhenitsyn's moving words predicting the coming of Gulag to America, Fr. Seraphim passed to the significance of Fr. Dimitry Dudko as a voice calling to spiritual awakening, not only to Russia but also to the whole world, and above all to Orthodox Christians. Fr. Dimitry views life-as we should also--as an unrelenting spiritual battle.)

 Seeing reality in this way--that is, being really aware of what is happening in the world, and not closing his eyes to it as we in the free world do, insulated by our temporary freedom and prosperity, Fr. Dimitry speaks in a tone that is urgent and full of crisis. He is constantly saying: Russia is perishing, the whole world is perishing-let us act, let us start being Christians right now! .... This is precisely the tone of true, Apostolic Christianity--the tone of St. John of Kronstadt, St. Cosmas of Aitolia, and of all who are on fire with Christ's message of salvation .... Our "Disneyland" experience in America has not equipped us to understand this sense of urgency, but Fr. Dimitry has begun to awaken us ....

 What Solzhenitsyn speaks of in secular terms as Gulag, Fr. Dimitry sees in religious terms as Golgatha--the Christian understanding of the Soviet experience. The central part of Fr. Dimitry's--and contemporary Russia's message,-to us is that all the sufferings inflicted by at h e i s m have a meaning: we can find Christ in them...

 

 Russia's experience is for the whole world, for the martyrs are the seed of Christianity, and the Russian New Martyrs are the source of new life for Orthodox Christians not only there, but everywhere .... Suffering, Golgotha, martyrdom are what we lack, and this is why our Christianity is so feeble; but we become stronger by learning of and participating in Russia's suffering ....

 Let us have no illusions: the kind of deep Christianity the Orthodox martyrs and sufferers of Russia know is not accessible to us. We are the products of Disneyland and a society of fakery and plastic everything-including plastic Christianity and plastic Orthodoxy. Let us be humble enough to recognize this.

 But we can begin to become aware. We can let the sufferings of our fellow Orthodox in Russia add a new dimension of seriousness to our life. We must seek to find out more about them, and we must begin to pray for them. In the early centuries of Christianity the prayer of Christians for those undergoing imprisonment, slave-labor, and martyrdom was a tremendous source of strength not only for those suffering, but for those praying for them as well. It can be the same for us today. Let us gather their names and pray for them in church and at home ....

It is a law of the spiritual life that where there is Golgotha--if it is truly suffering for Christ--there will be resurrection; about this also Fr. Dimitry speaks very movingly. This resurrection occurs first of all in human hearts, and we do not need to be too concerned about what outward form it might take by God's will. All signs point to the fact that we are living at the end of the world, and any outward restoration of Holy Russia will be short-lived. But our in. rd spiritual resurrection is what we should be striving for, and the events in Russia give us hope that, in contrast to all the imitation and fake Christianity and Orthodoxy that abounds today, there will yet be a resurrection of true, suffering Christianity, not only in Russia, but wherever hearts have not become entirely frozen. But we must be ready for the suffering that must precede this ....

Are we in the West ready for it? Golgotha does not mean the incidental sufferings we all go through in this life. It is something immense and deep, which cannot be relieved by taking an aspirin or going to a movie. It is what Russia has gone through and now is trying to communicate to us. Let us not be deaf to this message. By the prayers of all the New Martyrs of Russia, may God give us the strength to endure the trials coming upon us, and to find in them the resurrection of our souls !

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