Orthodox America

 The Cry of the New Martyrs – Letter from Russia 

“I put my trust in God and firmly believe that all my trials carry His blessing and that He will lend strength to my weakness by His merciful grace…His infinite mercy brings me much spiritual joy.”  Alexander Ogorodnikov

The following letter from an Orthodox convert Internet the Soviet Union shows the intensity of faith in that part of the Church which finds itself on Golgotha.

 My dear friend!
Christ is in our midst!

    I am so grateful for your letter. My joy knows no bounds ! I rejoice at the knowledge that you are not dead but alive--I speak here of life in the Holy Spirit, for only in the Holy Spirit "every soul is quickened, and through cleansing is exalted" unto the utmost bounds of the heavens. 

     I am glad to know that you look upon the Church as a school of piety, and that you have found there a place of refuge which offers peace and consolation. Live in the Church as you would not only in an organization , but in an organism: i.e., not only you in the Church, but also the Church in you. I myself strive to be in Church even when I am outside the church building--at work. at home, in the stores. More about this in my next letter.

     ...Write to me about yourself. Gladden my heart with the thought that you have matured, that you've begun to look more seriously at life--as at a time given to arrange your salvation, "till we come into the full measure of the stature of Christ" (Eph. 4: 13). Remember the words of the Apostle: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, for the world passeth away" (I John 2:15), and "the friendship of the world is enmity, with God" (James 4:4). Have you the habit of constantly reading the Gospel, the Psalter? Do not take me wrong. I do not presume to teach. I write out of love and because I cannot write simply about worldly concerns and not share my spiritual life (for I am not teaching, but sharing, as I desire the same for myself, and inspire myself with these thoughts). Woe unto me, if I preach not the glad tidings! (I Cor. 9:16).

     I do not feel that you are far away. As soon as I begin praying: Lord, save Thy servant it is as though you were right beside me. Prayer is the miracle of miracles, given to us by the Creator. Nothing else brings people closer together--no matter what the distance separating them. With all the modern developments in technology and the almost fantastical possibilities of bringing people too, ether, not only have people not become closer to one another, they have become hardened, more separated, and have ultimately grown further apart, closing in upon themselves. Isn't this amazing? For us believers this is marvelous and at the same time very simple. Is there a speed on earth which can exceed the moving of the Holy Spirit? Does there exist for Him any limit, any boundary? The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. When I remember someone in prayer, I am immediately united to him in spirit!

     To answer your questions: you ask about our attitude towards the glorification of the New Martyrs, and towards the separation of jurisdictions. Already in 1917, during the All Russian Church Council, at the suggestion of holy Patriarch Tikhon it was established that on the second week after Pentecost, there would annually be commemorated 'All the Saints who have shone forth on the Russian land.' This was an act of great foresight, prophetically anticipating the coming trials and the impossibility not only of glorifying, but even of naming all the New Martyrs whom the Russian Church was soon to offer.

Through God's Providence this feast was established at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In celebrating the memory of 'All Saints of Russia,' we also prayed to all the New Martyrs. Only now--after they have been glorified specifically, by name--we are filled with still greater joy, although some consider this was done prematurely, without the participation of the fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church. But there are few of this opinion compared with the number of those who welcomed the event. Please express my personal gratitude to all those who labored in preparation for that day, a day which the Lord made. May the Lord save you--heirs of Holy Russia! We heard a tape of the glorification service, and when they sang the magnification to the New Martyrs, we stood up, crossed ourselves, and praised God "wondrous in His saints."

     Concerning the separation between you [i.e., the Church Abroad] and Moscow--for me such a separation does not exist (except perhaps territorially). I think more of what unites us, and not of what divides us (the latter is insignificant by comparison with the former). What unites us is the Orthodox faith and the saving Church. There is an obvious reason for these differences which has no bearing on the Church as an organism. The 'attacks' on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate are easily explained, and under the circumstances you must have pity and be merciful, remembering that "mercy rejoiceth against judgment" (James 2:13). The objections which come from you [the Church Abroad] (best expressed by Archbishop Averky whom we greatly revere) are admissible in their essence, their letter, but unfortunately' they are, not always expressed in a spirit of love and understanding of the Situation (you show more judgment than compassion). There is no separation--rather, there is unity.

     I could go on and on with this letter. There is so much I want to say, but I must stop. Above all, it is my desire that your eyes should always be focused on the invisible world, not the visible, "for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal' (II Cor. l:18). "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of men, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (I Cor. 2:9).

    Pardon my terrible handwriting. I wish you all joy from God, and ask your prayers. Don't forget me. I anxiously await your reply.