Orthodox America

  A Prevailing Light – 988-1988

Jubilee Epistle of the Chief Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church!

       It was all the saints of the Russian Land who laid the firm foundation upon which our great native land of Russia has grown and matured. Soon, very soon after baptism, its best sons, its righteous, seeking union with God in prayer, departed into the forest glades. After them followed people from all walks of life, who yearned to hear from them a good word of consolation, counsel, and, at times, healing. Thus, following the tracks of the saints of God, there sprang up hamlets, villages and towns, surrounded by walls and towers, by which churches, dwelling places and marketplaces were cramped by the din of vain, worldly life which reached their sketes, the hermits fled anew into the wilderness, where in the silence they contemplated that which is invisible, unapproachable, untranslatable into ordinary, inadequate human language. Thus did our saints pass through the entire length and breadth of the Russian land from the south to the north, from the west to the east, turning over the virgin soil of the multinational Russian heart with the plow of spiritual struggle and prayer, irrigating it, as with rain, with the tears of repentance, so that the seed of God's Word might spring up and bear its fruit tenfold, fifty-fold or even a hundredfold. This is an amazing example of Christianization, unprecedented in the history of the Church of Christ. It is for this reason that the ancient saying has come down to us: 'There is no village without a righteous man, and no town without a saint."

      It was pleasing to the Lord God to extend this period at Russia’s spiritual history for almost nine centuries. External attacks upon our native land were not an impediment to its inner struggle; on the contrary, they strengthened its spiritual powers and created a second font of the Baptism of the Baptism of Russia, filling it with the tears of the saints. This spiritual period can be called the epoch of the monastic saints; when the life-giving stream of divine power slowly but surely penetrated all the folds of Russian life, preparing the Russian Land, according to our righteous poet, A. S. Khomiakov, for its third baptismal font which was filled with the blood of the martyrs. Our righteous ones and saints taught the Russian heart to pray and out of this praying heart came our whole Russian Orthodox culture, for it is the heart that dictates the entire conduct of a man, all his expressions, all his actions. The Russian language has been spiritualized to such an extent that when a foreigner studies our language, we almost consider him a catechumen standing in the narthex of an Orthodox church. Our architecture, our art of building churches, our iconography, church singing, and even our secular music, inspire, elevate, and cleanse the human soul.

      The Orthodox Faith enriched the Russian soul with the most refined intuition, bordering on inspiration, of Dostoevsky, Gogol, Khomiakov and many other writers, and forced the entire world of thinking to recognize intuition as the principal force of knowledge and of the true understanding of the nature of things. Finally, the Lord has gifted the Russian soul with a deep love for its native land, and from this ardent love for one's own, we have learned to love others, not of our own nation, something which is frequently expressed in Russian psychology by the feeling of universality, which is not to be confused with internationalism. The Russian man now thinks in a universal manner, has sympathy for all, is grieved and rejoices on behalf of all. Here we have come (head on) to a dangerous fault in our entire existence as Russian Orthodox. Our all-pervasive, living Russian Orthodox culture is based on the spiritual struggle of the living Russian heart. It demands at all times the participation of his heart, with a certain spiritual concentration of all his powers. This is the true spiritual struggle of which the Russian people became tired, and lazy; they continued, however, to bear this struggle, but only as a duty, without the participation of the heart, or because that was expected of them. The Lord said to us: Son, give Me thy heart, but this hidden spiritual struggle did not exist any longer, and everything became a ' burden which no one can bear for long. They began to cast off this burden and the churches began to grow empty. This was the first spiritual reason for the rebellion against God, the cause of the Revolution. The Russian nation probably could have come to its senses even at this point, but apparently the extent of its fall was very great.

    A persecution of the Church of Christ followed, of a magnitude never before witnessed in the whole world. Prisons, places of exile, forced labor camps and a sea of blood became the baptismal font of the Russian nation. But where there is Golgotha, there is also the Lord’s tomb nearby and His Glorious Resurrection. The entire Russian Land was sprinkled with the tears of the saints and the blood of the martyrs. The Russian Land is a holy land, and if we were to have spiritual eyes and gaze at our earth from the firmament of heaven, the Russian Land would appear to us as emanating pillars of fiery light from the whole expanse of its forests, plains, tundras and permafrosts, from the shifting sands of its deserts, from its lakes, rivers and seas; from the holy relics of the known and unknown Russian passion bearers. This is the great glory of the Russian Church, to which it will be granted to speak to the whole world, in the name of the entire universal Church of Christ, the final Word of truth, the Word of love, before the final great end to all will come. This is how our saints and righteous men believed; so do we also believe. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen. 

Metropolitan Vitaly

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