Faith, Unbelief, and Doubt: Part I. Children’s Faith, Chapter 3

Faith, Unbelief, and Doubt
Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov)
Part I. Children’s Faith. Chapter 3

* * *

Everyone knows to what extent children actually live in quite another world. And if I do not remember much about myself, I will write down something from the lives of other children.

One child of three, whose grandmother wrote me, was suffering with whooping cough for a long time. Before going to bed, he said to his grandmother:

“Babushka! If you see angels in your dream, ask them that my coughing would stop, I’m very tired!”

Another grandmother who came to visit her daughter who was dying of tuberculosis in Paris told me about her grandson Alexei.

“My daughter married a commissar. He did not even allow the mention of God. I, however, had a cross on my necklace and little Alexei saw it.

‘Babushka! What is that you have?’

I said, ‘A watch, my dear!’

He listened to it: there was no ticking, and he did not believe it.

And yet, bells were still rung on holidays. I do not know how but he somehow learned about God. And once told me,

‘Granny! Carry me to the church; I’ll one time, just once look at God and won’t any more.'”

Often, in the earliest years, they confuse the priest with God. In Bulgaria, I met a 4-year-old child who ran to his father in the shop and shouted: “God, God is coming!” I gave him some money for a treat.

In New York, a Negro boy (in 1933) asked me in English:

“Are you God?”


“Who are you? The Mother of God?”

“No, I’m a bishop.”

He didn’t understand… He probably hadn’t heard that word.

“Svyashchenik, priest, priest!” I said [Footnote 1].

[Footnote 1 (of translator): In Russian text, the word priest is printed in Russian the first time and in English the last two times.]

A very tiny child was brought to the church. When he came home, he was asked: “Well, what did you see in the church?”

“God came, let loose smoke on us (from the censer), and left. And that was the whole service.”

There was a 7-year-old girl, Sonia, whose mother fell ill. They said that death was near. But her daughter was completely calm. When the mother especially complained of pain and was afraid of death, Sonia went to her and asked:

“Mama, why are you afraid of death? After all, you tell me that it is very good with God in paradise. And do you not want to go there?”

…I do not know what her mother answered.

Sonia often received communion, and she loved it.

In New York, one mother often communed her little ones: Peter and Paul, little pale kids. How I loved to commune them! And they, too, loved it. Simply angels.

I also remember about older “angels” of the Don Cadet Corps (in Bileća, Yugoslavia) [Footnote 2]. They fasted in groups (2-3 “companies” of a class).

[Footnote 2 (of editor of Russian text): In 1924-1925, Bishop Benjamin was an instructor for the Law of God in two cadet corps: Russian and Don of General Kaledin.]

One day, after Communion, two young men, 16-17 years old already, came to me… Pure, handsome. They knocked. I let them in.

“What do you come for?” I ask.


They sat down. Everyone was silent… They sit quietly…

“Well, how do you feel?” I ask.

“Good-oh!” One of them answers.

The other added:

“As though it were Easter!”

We were silent again. And I was happy to sit in silence with them. Then one says thoughtfully:

“And to think: why did God gave us this joy? Just because we have confessed (i.e., revealed our sins).

We sat a little and they left. And I was left with the impression that real angels had been with me… Even now it is joyful to remember them.

Another cadet from the same corps, a clever young man, the first student in the company, said to me after Communion that he suddenly felt so physically “light that I have less weight in me.” This deserves attention: a person is enlivened when he unites himself to Christ. After His resurrection, Christ received a spiritual body, which did not have any weight or density; because of this, He appeared and disappeared through doors…and ascended. And the custom of the Church to read (by the clergy in the altar, secretly) after Communion “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ,” “Shine, shine, new (future, spiritual, about which is written in Revelation 21 and 22) Jerusalem” is full of meaning. A spiritual, divine city, in which “they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light” (Revelation 22:5), “Having the Glory of God (Revelation 21:11); “new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). And then they read “O Great and most sacred Pascha, Christ!… Grant that we partake of Thee fully in the unwaning day of Thy Kingdom” (Paschal Canon, canticle 9).

I remembered about another extraordinary action of Holy Communion. But not about infants in the flesh…

In Paris, a young, 25-year-old girl came to me in the Sergiev Podvorye [Footnote 3]. She was a writer. It was the first time I had seen her.

[Footnote 3 (of editor of Russian text): Sergiev Podvorye in Paris was founded in the mid-1920s by Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgievskii), who oversaw the Russian parishes in Western Europe, Prince G.N. Trubetskoy, M.M. Osorgin, and other Russian exiles. At the podvorye, a theological institute was established, at which taught Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, G.V. Florovsky, B.P. Vysheslavtsev, A.V. Kartashev, and V.N. Il’in. Bishop Benjamin was a professor and served as dean of students of the institute. According to contemporaries, the theological institute was largely obliged to Bishop Benjamin for the particular spiritual atmosphere, almost monastic way of life, that prevailed within its walls.]

“How can I serve you?”

“I came to you to for confession.”

“Good: I do not dare refuse. And why exactly did you come to me?”

“I was sent to you by R.”

This was a baptized Jew, a girl known to me.

After a few more phrases, I wanted to proceed to the Sacrament of Confession. Suddenly she resolutely declares:

“No! I will not confess before you.”

“What is it? Why is that?”

“Well, I want to confess before such a priest who does not know me at all and that I do not know. And I have only spoken with you 5 minutes here, and I feel like I’ve known you for 20 years. No, I will not, I will not! I would be ashamed!”

And she was about to leave.

I earnestly tried to persuade her to drop this temptation of the devil. But she stood her ground: “I will not, I will not!”

Then I decided upon an innocent ploy.

“Listen,” I say, “well, you will not say anything; only stand on your knees, and I will speak for you: if my words are true, then you remain silent, but if they are wrong, tell me only: no. Now this is no longer difficult.”

Vacillating a little more, she agreed. I read the prayers. We knelt. I spoke… Confession, thank God, was accomplished. It was Great and Holy Thursday, after Divine Liturgy. Liturgy and Communion does not take place the following day. And the Plashchanitsa is brought out only at Vespers. The sacrifice of Calvary is made.

The girl from confession was at the service. After Vespers, she ran to my room and said in horror:

“And once again I have chaos in my soul. Everything in my head is mixed up again. That’s all very nice, but what if all this is only a creation of my own heart and mind? And what if all of this is in actual fact not real?” (I’ll write specifically about doubts later.)

“Why do you think this?”

“I myself do not know why!” She says in grieving horror. “Those thoughts came into my head from somewhere, against my will. And I’ve fallen to pieces again. This is terrible!”

“Wait, wait!” I said. And suddenly the thought came to me to read her something from the Gospels. She stopped.

“I am not going to prove existence and truth to the world right now… But just look at it… We will see with our own eyes.”

“How?” Surprisingly she asks with a secret, joyful hope to get out of the horror of doubt that has seized her.

“Here is the Gospel. Just what is it? We say, Divine “Revelation,” “the Word of God.” If it is “revelation,” it does not prove but simply shows, “opens” to us the other world and its undoubted reality and truth. Well, I will open it at random and we will read and see that world.”

I opened the Gospel of Mark by chance, and my fingers fell upon the end of the fifth chapter. I read to her about the resurrection of the daughter of a ruler of the synagogue:

“And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat” (Mark 5:41-43).

“Well, look,” I say, “Is it not obvious to you that all this was written by credible witnesses?!” Tell me, why would they write about a young girl who, after being resurrected, “began to walk” around the room?! Does it really matter if Tabitha, who had been resurrected by the Apostle Peter, walked or if she sat? She “opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up” (Acts 9:40-41). And yet, witnesses saw and recorded this detail. As is known, the Holy Apostle Mark wrote this according to the words of his teacher, the Apostle Peter, who was present at this miracle along with John and James (Mark 5:37). And they themselves were surprised by this walking: she was just dead and now is healthily walking. We know, of course, that children do not like to sit and love to move, to do something. And the Apostle explains particularly this: she was then still only “about 12 years old”… Still a girl… And then: “Give her something to eat”… Another great detail; although she was walking around the room, yet was still weakened by illness, and the Savior also took care of that. Now,” I say, “tell me yourself (you are an honest and intelligent woman); is it not obvious to every unprejudiced mind and heart that all of this really happened? Well, has it really not been “revealed” even to us that all of this is the truth? And if these two or three verses are true, then is not everything above and below written of Christ and of His Father and the Holy Spirit and, in general, all that is revealed in the Gospel about that world true?! Say for yourself.”

“Yes, it is true!” Quietly confirmed the troubled writer. “It’s true.”

“Well, go in peace, and take communion tomorrow. If you again find doubtful thoughts in yourself, do not pay them any attention. Be calm and firm: you see that all this ‘in fact’ was and is.”

She left completely calmed.

She received Communion on Holy Saturday. I had only returned from the church to my room and she comes in extremely joyful. I liked to invite the communicants to tea.

“Welcome, welcome! Come in.”

“No, I will not stay. I only ran in for one minute.”

“You should at least drink some tea!”

“No, no, no!” She said, all the while continuing to stand in the hallway. “I just came to tell you what happened to me during Communion…”

I am silent … She sighed for two or three seconds and said:

“During communion, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared to me.”

(And further I do not remember the details, for she said it only very briefly.)

“That’s what I ran in to tell you!” And having received a blessing, she joyfully, with radiant Paschal brightness quickly ran away…

I never met her again… Just where are you, child of God? I believe that whatever happened to you, Christ did not appear to you in vain in a particularly obvious way after Communion… He will not let you perish in the whirlpool of life nor in the callous lie of disbelief.

More about children.

In Simferopol, a 3-year-old favorite was dying in the family of R-kh. The parents are crying, but he is telling them, “Home, I’m going home.”

Count A-n [Footnote 4], in the presence of members of the Synod, in 1920, said the following about his girls (Martha and, it seems, Nadya) in Kherson monastery:

[Footnote 4 (of editor of Russian text): Probably Count Apraksin, a member of the so-called “Crimean Synod,” Provisional Supreme Church Administration (PSCA) dioceses of southeast Russia, of which Bishop Benjamin was also a member.]

“They were already in bed (in Yalta). I, as usual, came to them in the bedroom at night to make the sign of the cross over them. The doors opened silently, and I can hear their conversation:

‘What do you think: will they now come to us?’ Says one.

‘I think they will come…’

About whom are they talking? About their parents or what? I ask:

‘For whom are you waiting? Who will come?’

They answered simply, ‘angels.’

‘What angels?’

‘Fair, with wings.’

‘They come to you?’


I did not ask about anything else. I silently crossed them and with tears of joy came out.”

His wife too was holy, from the Baryatinsky family… Someone who knows her life should write about her. She was humble… And pure… And a believing soul…

She was deprived of everything, but she never grumbled not only about God but not even about the Bolsheviks … There were saints among the aristocrats and not only among ordinary people…

Concerning angels, I still remember the story of Bishop Tikhon (Tishchenko), at the time an archimandrite, the former rector of the Russian Church in Berlin. In 1923, I was invited to give a lecture at a congress of Christian youth in the town of Falkenberg, near Berlin. Archimandrite Tikhon was also there. He was a very learned theologian with a theological degree and dean of students of the Kiev Theological Academy. He came from a peasant family from the town of Belaya Tserkov. They had a large family with seven children. The youngest child, Maria, fell dangerously ill. After several sleepless nights, their mother laid the child beside her on the bed and fell asleep. And the boy, then still Timothy, was sitting at the window.

“I was seven years old. Suddenly I saw an angel with Manka in his hands and I shouted: ‘Mamo! Mamo! [Footnote 5] Manka was taken, Manka was taken!’ My mother woke up: ‘What are you shouting about?’ ‘Manko was taken!’ ‘Who took her?’ And she rushed to look at the sick child. ‘An angel took her. I saw it.’ Mother took up Maria but she was already dead.

[Footnote 5 (of translator): This is the vocative form of Mama.]

Archimandrite Tikhon told me that he had seen a white angel with wings.

Faith, Unbelief, and Doubt: Part I. Children’s Faith, Chapter 2

Faith, Unbelief, and Doubt
by Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov)
Part I. Children’s Faith.
Chapter 2

* * *

I also remember how my grandmother (Nadezhda who was holy and humble; may she be granted the Kingdom of Heaven!) took me to the church that stood on a hill, about two versts from our house, to receive the Holy Mysteries. I was dressed in a clean, colored shirt, I remember, and it was in summer, which also pleased me. I do not remember my impressions of Holy Communion in early childhood, but I do remember only a slight impression: peace and quiet, reverent, silent, triumphant: I was as though becoming a grown-up, serious…

One time, my grandmother and I arrived late for communion and it was upsetting… Why was I alone of the children taken (my brother, Michael, was older than me by 2 years, but he was not taken with me)? I do not know… Was it really already God’s Providence for me, the unworthy?

By the way, about my holy grandmother: My mother told me that my grandfather married grandmother not by choice but by the will of his parents, as was usually done in the old days in simple rural families and clergy. Here is how it happened. One winter evening, my great-grandfather, Deacon Basil (Orshevsky), came into the house, and my grandfather, Nicholas, then a young man (he for some reason did not finish studying in religious schools), was lying on the stove [Footnote 1].

[Footnote 1 (of translator): Traditional Russian stoves are quite large and have one or more places where someone could lie down.]

“Nicholas, hey Nicholas!” Said great-grandfather to grandfather.

“What, batushka? [Footnote 2]

[Footnote 2 (of translator): Batushka was not used exclusively in relation to clergy, but was used as a more intimate form for one’s own father.]

“I decided to marry you off.”

“To whom, batushka?” asked the groom.

“Well, I want to take Fr. Basil’s (in that village, Orshevka, there was another deacon, also named Basil) Nadezhda for you.”

“Batushka! That pock-marked thing?!” Objected the disgruntled and unwilling groom. Grandmother had smallpox as a child and she had a few large pockmarks, though they really didn’t mar her face.

“What?!” Fr. Deacon said angrily. “Well, what? Am I really your enemy and not your father? I know whom I choose. Come on, get off the stove!” Grandpa was in tears, and his father took a poker (what we used to put our pots and cast iron into the oven) and let it loose on his back—once, twice and he “taught him.”

“Forgive me, batushka,” pleaded grandfather. “Whether to a pockmarked or one-eyed woman, it’s your will!”

And they were married. It had been a wise choice: grandfather did not have an entirely peaceful nature, and later he drank a lot of wine. He had a big apiary, several hundred hives, bought and sold, mead and beer. And during parish office he constantly drank, and thus became an alcoholic. During the last 18 years of his life (he died at 71-72 years), he even lost his wits and lapsed into childhood. He lived with us and then with another daughter, Anna Sokolova (also a meek, holy woman who was married to a wealthy reader, Yakov Nikolaevich). He was very quiet and just joked and smiled. None of the children were afraid of him… He died at Anna’s; I was not there at the time.

It was particularly to such a restless groom that the Lord sent the most humble wife Nadezhda. And she never complained, never judged grandfather; she was always oh-so-calm, quiet, and gentle.

Yes, we can say that she was holy. The Apostle Paul often wrote about Christians in his letters: “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22); in another place, he writes simply: “All the brethren greet you (Corinthians)” (1 Cor. 16:20); “All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith” (Titus 3:15). The first Christians lived faithfully, remaining in families, with husbands, wives, children, or even as slaves. Grandmother was truly of this kind.

The Lord, therefore, granted her an unusually quiet repose, about which we pray: “a Christian ending to our life, painless, blameless, peaceful,” “let us ask of the Lord” [Footnote 3]. This I remember: I was probably 7 years old already, perhaps still just a little over 6. I slept with my little brother Sergei on the big bed, while the others slept on the floor. Grandma slept on the bench (an addition on the side to a large, Russian stove, for warmth while resting and sleeping)… Grandmother, as I remember, was never ill. She was about 71-72 years old probably, but she already was getting very weak. This must be why the lamp was dimly burning. Suddenly I heard (but maybe my mother later recalled?):

[Footnote 3 (of editor of Russian text): Christian ending to our life… – The words of the Litany of Supplication]

“Natasha!” (Grandmother calling to my mother). Sergei tossed about in his sleep (that is, threw off his blanket in his sleep): cover him up.

Evidently, she was already weak; she did not get up. My mother, who is very responsive and fast in general, instantly jumped up from the floor and covered my brother. By this time, I was not sleeping. Then my mother wanted to go to bed, but grandmother suddenly began to breathe with unusual difficulty. Mother heard it and was frightened. She went up to grandmother and said to father:

“Father, father!” Get up, there’s something not good with grandmother.

My mother was a nervous person, but my father was always calm: what could one worry about in this world? And Ukrainian (Fedchenko! [Footnote 4]) mildness was in his nature (Ukrainians rode on oxen: very “so-o-f-ftly”). Father stood up, looked at grandmother, and completely peacefully said:

[Footnote 4 (of translator): According to Metropolitan Benjamin’s biography, his father’s (or even earlier ancestor’s) last name, Fedchenko, was given a Russian ending.]

“Grandmother is dying.”

My mother immediately began to cry loudly … Everyone woke up… I do not remember, but think I was not worried. Father lit a beeswax candle and went up to grandmother:

“Grandmother, cross yourself!” (Perhaps she still had enough strength.) “Take the candle.”

She took it, and then she breathed infrequently a few times. And she died absolutely calmly… Mother sobbed… On the third day, she was buried. And they carried her along the same road by which we went to communion. In front of the coffin, I carried an icon… They buried her in the cemetery, to the left, almost next to the chapel. She was holy. This was, it seems, early autumn, maybe even in September (about 1886-87). Six months later, ailing grandfather died at their other daughter’s in the village.

To this day, I not only remember grandmother in my prayers, but when I have emotional difficulties, I ask her to pray for me there, before God; her prayer, humble and pure (of course, she lived a pure life), reaches to God.

…In connection, I recall how I fasted later. This was already 5 years after my grandmother’s death…

Fr. Vladimir heard confessions during the fast on the right kliros. And it seems that he confessed innocent children in groups of five… And, really, what kinds of sins did we have then? I afterward joyfully flew home on wings: my soul was so light! And after confession, we were not supposed to eat. My mother, also happy for us that we were cleansed (the people say, “you dealt with it and were fixed”), gently used to say:

“Well, you go, go quickly to bed already so as not to sin again. Tomorrow is communion!”

And we, truly afraid of soiling our conscience even in word and thought, went right to bed; and we fell asleep in untroubled sleep of innocence. On the next day, we were “made worthy” to receive communion, which was even more joy for both us and our parents. They were particularly affectionate to us at this time… Holy peace and love entered into the house with those who had communed: “the God of love and peace” came with us into the house (2 Cor. 13:11).

Everyone congratulated us, treated us to good things, and generously awarded us for the previous day’s fast.

Faith, Unbelief, and Doubt: Part I. Children’s Faith, Chapter 1

This is the beginning of the serial publication of the book Faith, Unbelief, and Doubt by Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov) (1880-1961), an extraordinary bishop who wrote a number of directly autobiographical memoirs and other books that include many interesting facts from his life (concerning not only his own life but also different aspects of Russian culture), which was lived, according to his aptly-named autobiography, At the Turn of Two Eras.

Part I. Children’s Faith

Chapter 1

I have been accumulating material on faith and unbelief already for a long time. You could even say that almost all of my life was intertwined with these issues in one way or another. And even now I live in the atmosphere of these issues: everything else is revolving around them or intersects with them. I read lectures about these topics at the St. Petersburg Academy, the Paris Theological Institute, and in various public addresses. I also have notes and sketches, and now during this free week I will write down what I am able.

* * *

This will certainly not be a “lecture” but rather “autobiographical” notes. Since I have experienced questions about faith in my life and what I thought about them, this is like a “confession of faith.”

And I want it to be lively, for I really lived through it all. These are notes or observations of the heart then shaped in the mind.

* * *

And it will prove useful for someone, for people are similar.

* * *

I will begin from the time that I remember having faith.

* * *

Of course I do not remember how and when the first words and the thought of faith were cast into my heart by my mother… My memory already found me a believer, as were my parents, just like everyone around us, “simple” people, almost village class. My father, who had been a serf as a boy, was a clerk in the estate of B’s and my mother was the daughter of a deacon from the village of Sofinki [Footnote 1]. My father as a boy had been a serf. I did not see any atheists in my childhood nor did I even hear about them. Everyone around me believed unequivocally, and God’s world, the supernatural, was as real as the earth. There was absolutely no difference. And I do not even remember when I first learned that there were atheists. I also do not remember the impressions of this new knowledge. But in any case, it evidently did not make any impression on me for the very reason that it did not remain in my memory as something peculiar… And thus, I always remember myself as a believer! And I can say that I have never been an unbeliever. However, I know about the states of doubt and unbelief; but I will write about that later.

[Footnote 1 (of editor of Russian text): After graduation from academy (1907-1908), Hieromonk Benjamin became a professorial fellow at the Department of Biblical History and then held the position of dean of students of the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. Bishop Benjamin taught in 1925-1927 and 1929-1931 at the Paris Orthodox Theological Institute. Bishop Benjamin’s father, Afanasii Ivanovich Fedchenkov, came from serfs of Smolensk province; he was a servant for the Baratynskys, the descendants of the famous Russian poet E.A. Baratynsky. When he was 13-14 years old, he was sent as a clerk to the Tambov estate.]

… So as not to forget later, I will write down a conversation on this subject (in general, I will not concern myself with a “system” of notes, because it is not very important). One day I visited a friend in Moscow, Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kozhevnikov, that I esteem [Footnote 2]. He was a man of great erudition, an academic. His library contained thousands of books. He knew all the major European languages. He wrote several books on Buddhism (without finishing them)…

[Footnote 2 (of editor of Russian text): Vladimir Kozhevnikov (1852-1917) was the author of books and articles on the history of religion, theology, and moral issues and was a public figure. The following is a small list of his works on the subject of faith and unbelief: “The Philosophy of Feeling and Faith in Its Relationship to Literature and Rationalism of the 18th Century and to Critical Philosophy,” Moscow, 1897; “On Conscientiousness in Faith and Unbelief (For Young Students),” Moscow, 1908; “Confessions of an Atheist (On the Book of Le Dantec “Atheism”),” Moscow, 1911; “Modern Scientific Unbelief. Its Growth, Influence, and Changing Attitudes Towards it,” Moscow, 1912.]

Shortly before his death, he contracted a terrible type of fever that flung him around his bed like a feather… I went to see him. He completely peacefully carried on a conversation while he lay. And, by the way, he said, pointing to the thousands of books standing on the shelves (with irony, but innocently):

“I read all these fools, and yet I did not lose faith. I have always been a believer.”

He died peacefully. My your soul be granted the Kingdom of Heaven, servant of God Vladimir…

Among his books, he wrote several pamphlets on faith: they are simple in presentation, but very profound… I have now forgotten the exact contents. But I will look for them and write them down: they are worth reading for anyone interested in these issues; there would doubtlessly be use in reading them.

* * *

The first impression connected in my memory with faith was, perhaps, Pascha. All of our family was preparing for it, as everyone else, a still long way off. And this expectation grew and grew.

On Saturday evening, we were talking about the Matins of Pascha. I had still never been to it: I was too small… I was perhaps 4 years old at the time… And I really wanted to be at the service. And I began to ask my mother to take me also to the church… I was expecting something amazing. My small heart fluttered from the approaching joy. Mama (she was the mistress of the family) promised me, but she advised me to go to bed early. With hopefulness, I immediately fell asleep, but I woke up when it was already dawn. Our family had already come from the church (usually a horse was given from the estate for this occasion) …

It turned out that I was only comforted by the promise but was not taken. And my older brother, Michael, had already received this joy. It was painful, but I soon forgot about my sadness. Paschal joy took hold of me and carried me forward. Children’s grief, like the morning dew, is short-lived… But the next year I was together with all of our family… I do not remember everything, but the joy was extraordinary… And among other things, during the singing of “Christ is Risen” and the procession around the church, a cannon (with powder) preserved at the landlords, God knows from where, was fired [Footnote 3]. It was frightening but also breathtaking. Everything merged into total elation, and barrels of tar were even burned… which was beautiful at night… I remember how old women set “Pascha” (cheese), Kulich, and painted eggs in packages around the church, and penny candles were stuck in the Pascha cheese. “Batushki” (priest, deacon, and reader) walked, sang, and sprinkled them with holy water (after the liturgy); the old women immediately tied up their packages and hurried home… The fires became smaller and smaller. Bonfires were sleepily burning, as if exhausted by the night… Dawn was beginning to shine… We rode in the cart. Under the wheels and hooves of horses, ice crunched in places; it must have been an early Pascha. At home, father and mother sang Christ is Risen three times, and we began to joyously break the fast and with sweet Pascha cheese, kulich, and eggs… My little heart was filled with joy… Then we immediately went to sleep after an almost sleepless night. Around 11, we woke up for lunch. But already the same trembling joy was absent. Some kind of peaceful silence caressed my soul … Then there was a game of eggs on the street, where all the “gentlemen’s” [Footnote 4] servants gathered. There was, clearly, no thought about any “social” inequality: the heart was joyful, the food was delicious, the soul was pure, and everyone around was glad. What could be better? I was oblivious to the whole world! It was a happy time…

[Footnote 3 (of editor of Russian text): In Russia, there was a custom (of secular origin) to accompany the procession on Pascha night with fireworks, illumination, and a cannon or rifle salute. Immediately after completion of the procession, when Paschal Matins began, the fireworks and shooting stopped.]

[Footnote 4 (of translator): Here he’s referring to the landowner.]

* * *

Much later, I turned my attention to the visit of the clergy to even our hut at Pascha… After the service at the landowners, the priest walked down the “court” [Footnote 5] and we waited. A green votive burned in front of the icons. Everything was neat and clean… We children watched for when the “icons” [Footnote 6] would appear.

[Footnote 5 (of translator)]: Metropolitan Benjamin explains this word and concept in more detail in his autobiographical work At the Turn of Two Eras: “Everyone called us ‘servants,’ probably from the word ‘court,’ ‘courtiers.’ [Translator note: The word used for servants, ‘dvornya,’ is derived from the word for ‘court’: ‘dvor.’] The landowner’s house was like the tsar’s palace in the middle, while we who surrounded it made up his ‘court’ or ‘servants,’ to speak more humbly. Neither we ourselves nor even farmer-peasants highly respected us, so that the word ‘servants’ was probably pronounced with contempt, although we really were an intermediate layer between the highest, inaccessible class of lords and peasants, muzhiks.”]
[Footnote 6 (of translator)]: This procession of the clergy was apparently called “icons,” which does make sense as they would probably be carrying icons.]

…They’re coming, they’re coming!… Bending in through the low door, the “batushki” sang a minute-long moleben, we exchanged Paschal greetings, papa quietly put something (probably a silver five-kopek piece), embarrassedly, into the priest’s hand and invited them to have a seat. We offered treats: they declined… Two or three words, and everyone left…

And only then I felt that the feast had “reached” even to our home. Something was particularly still lacking until the “icons.” What it was, I do not know, and I will not even explain; but that recollection was etched in my memory forever… And after I thought: how foolishly people behave that they refuse to receive “batushki” on this day! What joy they deprive themselves… Batushki probably do not even suspect what joy it is that goes with them, they are used to it. But to me it was like God visiting…

Maybe even now when we clergy visit people with a moleben at feasts they also feel joy from us or via us from God!

Homily on Forgiveness Sunday

I present to you a homily given on Forgiveness Sunday 2010 by Fr. Maxim Kozlov at St. Tatiana’s Orthodox Church in Moscow, Russia.

Entering into Great Lent, let us be faithful when we get down to business

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

Today, dear brothers and sisters, it would be more correct to address this homily to you with a different greeting. Not simply “brothers and sisters,” nor “beloved in the Lord,” nor “my dears,” but in such a manner:

Soldiers of Christ our God!

Each of you, at some time received this name-soldier of Christ our God. It was received voluntarily-either by an adult who was baptized and agreed to be a faithful soldier of Christ our God or, even if someone was baptized in infancy, then their godparents made this promise. When we consciously and voluntarily accepted this name of Christian, we confirmed the promise and pledged ourselves to be faithful soldiers of Christ our God.

And today is one of those days, not simply of the liturgical year, but in the life of each of us when we can-and must!-confirm that these are not just words.

Many of us have probably heard that, before the beginning of Great Lent, people of our homeland (Russia-translator) were asked if they plan to fast. Those that said (not even having done anything yet, but just said) that they have an intention to observe the fast as the Orthodox Church teaches and as the Typicon proposes totaled four percent. A few more, around twenty percent, were those who thought about changing a little something in their lives during Great Lent. But those who had an intention to observe the fast as the Church teaches (of course it is understandable that they had in mind not strictly according to the Typicon but according to its essence) were four percent. Meanwhile, we know how many people today are inclined to call themselves Orthodox, to talk a little about Orthodoxy, and, of course, to judge a little about the Church, the hierarchy, and the priests. But when it comes to getting down to business, those who are ready turn out to be very few.

And thus, the fast is just the very time to get down to business, when not just some chatter, some conversations, or some sugariness but real effort is demanded of a person who has decided to call themselves a Christian. This is the first thing about which we have to remind ourselves.

When someone enters into a fast, they may have two incorrect dispositions from the start (there, of course, can be many more but we will focus on two).

There is, for example, the following incorrect disposition: someone from the very start dejectedly disposes themselves to the fast. “Well, here is the fast again. It is especially hard this year; the Nativity Fast just ended and here is Great Lent again. What kind of life is it for us Orthodox when it is one fast after another? We can’t have this or this or this.” When a person disposes themselves this way on the interior, they outwardly do not have the courage to admit it. On the exterior they will observe the fast under constraint, because they have to, or because they are afraid, or out of habit. But a fast without determination, without awareness of the purpose for which we are performing it will not bring the soul of man any benefit.

Another incorrect understanding and disposition at the start of the fast is also possible. It is sometimes the case that a person is inclined to observe the fast with zeal but only hoping that it will end as soon as possible. “I, of course, will comply with everything because the fast must be observed, but my goal is to endure these seven weeks. I will strive to observe everything to a certain extent during these weeks, but I’m just waiting until it ends and then I can break the fast and eat, drink, and be merry.” This is also a completely absurd beginning of the fast. With such a disposition, when a person is just waiting for the fast to end, there will be no benefit from the fast. There are such “hard-working” people who in actual fact don’t love to work but love to rest. They can move mountains but they do so, in reality, so that they would have leisure time sooner. For them, real life begins only when that leisure time begins. But a Christian cannot live in such a way that he observes the fast with diligence but his inner disposition is, “that which I desire begins when the fast ends-that is when the life that I’m longing for will be.”

We must endeavor not to tolerate either of these false dispositions at the beginning of the fast. Let us instead endeavor to return to the thought of faithfulness to Christ our God.

We live at such a time that our Christianity practically doesn’t cost us anything. After all, we don’t live in an age of persecution. In the big picture, there are no persecutions on television, nor in our coworkers laughing at us behind our backs, or even when we sometimes say for strategic reasons that secularists and humanists hinder the Church. They, of course, hinder it, but is this comparable to that thirty, fifty, or seventy years ago? It is not even possible to compare the two.

We live at a time that it is very easy to be a Christian. There are no podvigs; there is no fear or threat for us by the fact that we’re Christians. We can educate our children, we can go to work, we can be state officials, and make money and nothing bad happens. No one will say to you, “If you’re a Christian, go away.” Here today we are given the opportunity to weigh our Christianity a little bit and to understand that it has a price and that for the sake of Christ we must constrain ourselves. This opportunity is a mercy of God. This hardly ever happens in our lives but it is happening right now. Let’s perceive it as God’s mercy to us personally. Let’s reflect on our soul, our immortal soul as we know from Scripture and Church hymnography. The soul is immortal.

Well, what is demanded of us in the big picture? Not much-to refuse certain types of food, to turn off the biathlon and figure skating during the first week of the fast, and to understand that it is impossible to sing “My soul, my soul, arise; why are you sleeping?” and to think about coming home and watching them shoot the targets as these are incompatible things. This is just an example. Each one of us can find something in our life that we need to turn off during these weeks for the sake of Christ and profound life in Him.

Let’s all think for ourselves what we can do, to our own measure. By this, our faithfulness to God is clearly shown.

Everyone always mentions one comparison and we will also talk about it. Truly, a fast (in Russian, post-translator), in a way, is like a guard post in the army. It is well-known that one at a post must serve this time conscientiously. A soldier standing at a post knows that he will be relieved after a time. Yes, there will be a little more time of service but then it will be easier, that term will end. Only for that time, not for his whole life nor even for the whole time in the army does he need to be in constant strain. At that time he must not get distracted, nor fall asleep, nor run off to his girlfriend, nor put his gun aside, nor put his headphones on and look at his iPhone or listen to his iPod, but he must do what he is supposed to do. It will be easier later, but now he must do what he must do.

The Lord wisely arranged our way through the Church knowing that our life is non-linear. We can’t be at all times like robots or like some program going along a straight course. The fast is given to us particularly so that, with some effort, we would find ourselves a few steps higher than our usual level. And even if later we slide down some due to our relaxation, we would have moved at least a little step, at least a few meters up the mountain thanks to Great Lent. The fast is given to us so that we acquire this experience yet during our life.

Faithfulness to the fast implies faithfulness in our relationships with people through thoughtfulness to them with greater profoundness. It implies that we need to complete all that which we usually don’t do, think about those things that we usually don’t think about, complete all that which we usually try to put off because we pity ourselves and not others. In this will be our faithfulness to God and our true path in the fast if we will not put this off. This is also a fast.

There is also one more condition that we must observe entering into the fast. Christ speaks about this condition which we heard today in the Gospel today (Matthew 6:14-15-translator): it is to make oneself have a peaceful heart and to forgive offenses. We must strive to conquer in our heart all hatred, all hostility, and rejection of other people. We must also strive, if we know that we are obviously guilty before others-those intimate with us or distant from us-in some actions, in some words, or in the disposition of our life, to nullify them by changing our life.

Beside this present fast, maybe there will not be another chance, no one knows.

So let’s make a good beginning, faithful soldiers of Christ our God. Let’s remember that our soul is immortal and that the fast is not a disciplinary exercise but the school for life in Christ. Let’s remember that with joy we must enter into it, going to meet God. Not only entering it with the thought that Pascha will be after seven endlessly long weeks but that in the very effort of the fast a meeting with God will happen and the result of that will be the joy of the Paschal night. Let’s force ourselves to be disposed to this favorably and responsibly.


You can find the original here.

Serbian Conversations, Part 2

At long last, I present the second interview with Fr. Daniel Sysoyev and Yuri Maximov which they gave in Serbia.

“O Lord, open Thou my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise”

Stanoje Stankovic: The first question: What do you think about missions in the world, that is, in Africa, in Russia, in Serbia, and in the Balkans?

Father Daniel: I think that the Lord has now created such a situation that almost the whole world is open for Orthodox missions. Truly, such was not the case 20 years ago. And regarding globalization-this is an act of God in order that the Gospel makes it to the ends of the world, so that the undistorted preaching of the Holy Apostles could reach every people of the earth. If we, Christians, do not use this chance then the Lord will demand an answer from us for the fact that we did not convert people to the light of Orthodoxy. Regarding missions, they are beginning to be revived. We know that there are active missions in the Russian Church and the Greek Church; the Orthodox Church of Alexandria actively preaches. Yuri Valeryevich can talk about that in more detail, and I will speak about Russia.

In Russia there are two types of missions: internal missions targeted at nominal Orthodox, more correctly called catechism, and missions targeted at those outside the Church. Unfortunately, external missions are less active, but it is also starting to intensify right now. Yuri Valeryevich and I, having studied the experience of a number of missionaries, came to the conclusion that it was necessary to create a missionary movement and we did that in the creation of the missionary movement of the Holy Prophet Daniel, where the a program based on the general experience of the Russian Orthodox Church, in a sense, exists. We have courses, over the course of a year, for training Orthodox missionaries which train people to preach on the streets, among sects, among those of other religions, as well as among average nominal Orthodox.

How is this done? People are invited to talk about God; those who have for a long time not been to church, and those who have never been there are invited; people are invited to confession and communion; the unbaptized are offered baptism. At the same time, our missionaries hand out special leaflets in which is explained why one should cross themselves, go to confession, and go to communion and the address of a church is given-this is very important, so that there is a place to send them.

Further is the second stage: catechism. There are a few systems of catechism in use. In my church there is a system of five talks: on God, on the creation of the world, on Christ, on the Holy Mysteries, and on the Law of God. Each talk is two-and-a-half hours long, and during those talks the person is prepared for baptism or reconciliation to the Church if it is a sectarian. They will also read the four Gospels and Acts and then be solemnly joined to the Church. We usually have baptisms at a baptismal liturgy.

Then, after baptism, is the second step: people enter into the life of the Church, studying Holy Scripture. For this we have permanent classes on studying the Bible. Every week, in our church and in a few other churches in Moscow, we study the holy Word of God in detail. This is very important as, for many Protestants, one of the reason why they are not in the Orthodox Church is that the Holy Scripture is not studied. I think that we, having such rich interpretation of the Bible from the Holy Fathers, must use it.

Also very helpful are missions in the hospitals. For example, in Moscow almost all hospitals are under the care of a priest who are helped by “needs” sisters, that is, those people who help prepare a person for their first confession. This is truly a great work that needs to be enlivened. There is the same type of experience in a few other dioceses. As far as the Russian Church as a whole, there are regions where missions are active, where they are very successful but there are regions where, on the other hand, priests are afraid to preach because of the fact that, for example, Islam is very active. So there are different situations in different regions. It is, of course, very important that not only priests participate in missions but also lay people. The experience of the Russian Orthodox Church shows that lay missions are one of the most successful. For this, of course, lay people must be prepared and act under the supervision of priests but preach themselves.

It is very significant that there already is a prepared program for lay people for studying the Holy Gospel, according to which “Gospel circles” are organized, where lay people begin to study the Gospel on the foundation of the Holy Fathers. Such circles are already active. There were a few unsuccessful experiences in that sphere but there is now quite successful experience. I saw a lay group near Ulianovsk in which everything is studied on the foundation of the Holy Fathers and it works well, spiritually helping young people, though not only young people. We often talk about missions among young people, but we must not forget that missions must be among all layers of our society. The Gospel must be preached for all: for adults, for the elderly, and for children.

And, by the way, my personal experience of preaching in Kyrgyzstan showed that one of the best programs is when you invite Protestants or occultists and their faith is not even criticized but you just tell them about Orthodox Christianity as it is, as the Holy Fathers taught, as the Lord Himself taught through the Holy Apostles. Then people begin to change because the holy Word of God itself changes a person. This is very important. As far as missions in the Russian Church…they are well organized. Relatively well. We would like it to be much better but at least something is being done, some kind of missions. In Moscow and generally in central Russia in many districts, missions work is organized well. However, it goes without saying that it could be improved. Missions are well organized in the Kemerovo Diocese and in Siberia where Fr. Igor Kropochev and other priests of the missionary department are actively involved in missions among the local peoples, in particular, the Shortsi. There are regions, such as Central Asia, where missions are almost completely absent. However, there are active people in Kazakhstan and I have a hope that soon Kazakhstan will be completely enveloped by Orthodox missions. As far as the Far East is concerned, Patriarch Kirill has very fixed attention on it and, therefore, in a number of dioceses, particularly in the Sakhalin, Khabarovsk, Primorye, and Kamchatka dioceses, there is missionary activity, and in the Chukotka Diocese it is starting. Missions in Yakutia are very active. Sizes are very big there. Yakutia is like all of Europe in size and there are very few priests.

As far as the territory of the Russian Church beyond the borders of the CIS, missions are very difficult in China, of course. Father Dionisii Poznyaev and a few other priests do all that they are able but, unfortunately, due to Chinese law, but more so due to the lack of lay missionaries, who could preach to the Chinese, missions are very difficult there. Although work is being done, a large number of translations into Chinese are being made, people are doing what can in reality be done at the moment. In Japan, under the new primacy of Vladyka Daniel, missions are intensifying, thanks to his enthusiasm. In Ukraine, things are much worse. There, due to the schism as well as the abundance of Uniates, Orthodox missions have practically stopped and the Protestants have enormous success. For example, the mayor of Kiev is a Pentecostal. And in the Crimea the influence of Islam is increasing. Unfortunately, due to schisms, many people in Ukraine have fallen away from the Church. There are currently talks about the fact that it is necessary to intensify missions but, to great regret, it turns out that missions often comes off as some sort of nationalism instead of remembering that we are, in fact, Christians, which is higher than any nationality. As a matter of fact, missions connected to nationalism does not work at all; experience has shown this.

Yes, you can interpret patriotism from an Orthodox point of view, and there have been such attempts, for example St. Nikolaj of Serbia said that a true Serb is one who imitates Serbian saints in their pleasing of Christ. We can put it this way and such words will be meaningful to Serbs but not to Croatians, Hungarians, Albanians, etc. For us, for example, one of the problems of preaching Orthodoxy to Tatars is the fact that they often think that by accepting Orthodoxy they must renounce being Tatar, but this is not so. The true Christian understands that they do not change their ethnicity but become above that ethnicity and that which is was the best in their ethnicity they take with them, and that, by being baptized, they become particularly a Christian and not a Russian, Serb, or Greek. This is very important to understand.

Another thing that hinders missions right now is that we have a delayed response to challenges. Many new attacks on Christianity have now appeared: The Da Vinci Code, the Gospel of Judas, and many lies directed against Christ. These are lies which are spread out across the whole world, including, as I know, in Serbia.

We can, refuting them, use Orthodox apologetic works which have been published in the West and even non-Orthodox works; what is most important, of course, is to be able ourselves to respond to these attacks, and to be able to do it quickly. It is very important not to delay. For example, when the Da Vinci Code is released there must already be a response ready. And it is important not just to answer by printing a book and putting it on sale. An informational uproar must be made, for which we must use the internet, including blogs and social networks. An Orthodox answer must be presented as an informational event. For the modern consciousness, which is fully encompassed by information, it is very important to make informational booms. You can’t say that this is missions but it is something that leads to missions. For secular people now, it is very important to be able to interest them, to catch their attention, and then move on to a regular, in-depth, unhurried study of Orthodoxy. That is my view on what is going on.

Yuri Maximov: To what Fr. Daniel said I would like to add that truly, even when we write a response to those attacks, even if it is a good response, we have a problem in how to reach the common reader. Let’s say that a thousand people watched the Da Vinci Code film and our response to the film was read by one person of that thousand. These are two incomparable things. Nine-hundred-ninety-nine people were left with only the film; they did not hear our response. We need to work a lot so that our voice is heard.

Stanoje Stankovic: In Russia there are Orthodox TV channels and radio stations. In Serbia there are one or two programs on radio and they often have things that have no connection to Orthodoxy.

Yuri Maximov: Yes, we have the same problems. I’m not saying that what we are now discussing is easy to do. It is not easy but it must be done; we must reflect a lot and try to find a solution. The Lord will help. Concerning missions as a whole, you know, some people think that missions is like some kind of hobby. Someone collects stamps, someone grows rare flowers, and someone is engaged in missions-they express themselves in that way. But this is not right. Missions are a virtue, a fulfillment of the commandment of Christ. The Lord said, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and  of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matt. 28:19). This is a command that we must fulfill and also one which, unfortunately, Orthodox do not want to fulfill. And what happens when we do not want to fulfill the commandments? Well, nothing good. Until the beginning of the previous century, the overwhelming majority of Orthodox did not want to go anywhere and preach; and what happened in the 20th century? Such suffering befell all local Orthodox Churches, Russian, Serbian, Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian, Georgian, and Arab, without exception that people had to flee their home into foreign lands and there build churches, translate Orthodox literature into the local languages, etc. In such a way the 20th century became a century of the spreading of Orthodoxy across the planet. Those Orthodox who did not want to go to other lands in order to preach were driven out by the Lord Himself. He scattered them all across the world. And, like it or not, they were forced to do something so that the local people would come and become Orthodox. The opponents of missions should think about this and what misfortune they bring upon their own heads as well as their children with their stiff-necked and firm resistance to fulfill the will of God.

From the lips of such people you hear talk as though it is impossible to convert another person to Orthodoxy; for example, it is impossible that a Muslim would become Orthodox. But if you ask them, “But have you tried to do that?” They admit that they have not. Those who say that it is impossible have never tried it. They say it, as a matter of fact, so as not even to try.

Stanoje Stankovic: What is most important in missions? Some say that we need to go and preach at stadiums or discotheques while others say that prayer is more important, remembering the words of St. Seraphim of Sarov, “acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved.” So what do we need for missions to be successful? Maybe for a person to first make oneself a good Christian and then their own life will be a witness? I read somewhere that these are two different approaches to missions, so which of them is more successful?

Yuri Maximov: It seems to me that such a division takes place, to a large extent, in the minds of those people that are practically not involved in missions but only reflect on it theoretically. Only theoretically can one think that I will first become a good Christian and then go and talk to others. In order to become a good Christian one must fulfill the commandments of Christ and one of those is to go and teach. So how can you become a good Christian if you are not a missionary? If you have fulfilled all the commandments except one, how can you say that you have become a good Christian, if you have disdained a commandment of Christ? The Lord gave you commandments not so that you would write them down, hang them on the wall, and forget about it but so that you would live according to them. A person who loves God is involved in missions. Surely the Apostles weren’t imperfect Christians? Surely they acquired the spirit of peace?

Now on your first question on what is most important for missions. For a missionary, important are prayer and hope only in God, not in your own strength, not in yourself, not in your friends, not in your sponsors but only in God. Prayer to God and love for Christ and the person to whom you are preaching are important for a missionary, as well as resolution to deny yourself. What prevents us from going and preaching to our friend? We don’t have to go to the discotheque or stadium; for example, we have a neighbor or a colleague at work. It happens that we live next to our neighbors knowing that they are Catholic or Protestant, we’ve known them for ten years, we greet them, greet them at holidays but not once have we asked them, “My friend, why are you not Orthodox? Do you want me to tell you about Orthodoxy?” We say no such word. Why? Maybe because we want to acquire the spirit of peace in ourselves? But not at all, it is because we are afraid to trust in God and think, “What if I tell him ‘Do you want to know something about Orthodoxy?’ and he gets offended and says, ‘No, I don’t want know; I’m not going to talk with you.'” This is what is inside many opponents of missions: lack of faith and fear.

These are people that don’t think about God. A person that trusts God dedicates everything to Him. He says, “Though people trample on me, though they stone me I will glorify and preach the Name of Christ.” Such were the Apostles; they were not the type of people who are afraid of missions, people that justify their fear with objections against missions-such fearful people do not have the joy of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. This is so because when you have gifts of the Holy Spirit you are overflowing with such a joy that you want to share it. It is that candle which, as the Lord said, no one places under a vessel but holds in the open so that it would light up for everyone. One wants to say, “My friend, look at what happiness I have. Let me tell you about it.” This is what inspires missionaries. But if a person doesn’t want to share this what can be said about their spiritual state?

Christ has given us salvation; it is not from us-we received it as a gift. Without Him we would die. God gave us this gift not only for us but for those near us, so that we would go to other perishing people and share it with those who want salvation. And when we share that salvation with them we display love to them and become like God Who is love. Where is our love if for ten years we have been greeting our neighbor and smiling but have not told them one word about God? We go into our house, and think that since icons hang on the walls and we have Orthodox books that we are Orthodox, but this isn’t Orthodoxy.

And that very same St. Seraphim of Sarov preached to Old Believer schismatics when they came to him, saying, “I beg and plead with you: go to the Greco-Russian Church, it is in all the glory and power of God! It is as a ship, having many riggings, sails, and a great helm and is directed by the Holy Spirit.” He called them to the Orthodox Church. And he convinced a woman who came to him from the Old Believers so that she and all her relations came into the Church. What is this if not missions?

Father Daniel told me another great example not long ago. Saint Symeon the Stylite was a great missionary: he didn’t go anywhere and lived on his pillar but he pleased God so much that the Lord glorified him and many pagans came to him and said, “Pray so that God would heal us.” And they bothered him very much with their pleas. He sought quiet and solitude but it happened that the cries of people surrounded him. Then he said, “Ok, come and I will pray for you, but when God heals you be baptized.” They agreed and those being baptized were so many that the Church sent a bishop who lived next to the pillar and baptized people. Father Daniel has just come from a trip during which he saw that pillar and the remains of the church.

Father Daniel: At the time of St. Symeon there was a huge church around his pillar and inside was a special font for adults and children; it was like “conveyor belt” baptism.

Yuri Maximov: From this is it obvious that even a great hermit had a true missionary mindset and he was ready to reject that which he would have liked for the sake of fulfilling the commandment of God. The examples of such saints shows that the above mentioned division between spiritual life and missions is false. If we truly fulfill the commandment of God then this will not be the case. They are both interconnected. Orthodox missions is impossible without a serious spiritual life, and there will be no true spiritual life without the preaching of the Gospel.

Father Daniel: I would like to add another reason why people often do not want to be involved in missions. The thing is that the Bible makes a clear distinction: there are spheres of light and spheres of darkness, there is a place for the elected of God, the Church of God-the region of the saved, as it says in the canon-and a place where the devil acts, where there are people under the power of the prince of darkness, who after death inevitably end up in hell. So, in our consciousness that boundary is blurred. There are such people that say, “Outside of the Church there is no salvation,” who also say, “But outside the Church there are good people.” And this, for the most part, is the reason why they do not evangelize. They think that one can be saved by one’s own works, but this is impossible, it is the heresy of Pelagius. If one can be saved without the Church then Christ died in vain. And that feeling of a possibility of salvation without Christ kills missions. For I cannot calmly sit by and say nothing of Christ if I know that my non-Orthodox neighbor is guaranteed to end up in hell, that people outside the Church are perishing. People who are sliding into hell know this themselves; no one has told them this, they feel it themselves: they have depression and consuming passions, their conscious pricks them, they are tormented with life, they are unhappy, and they languish in false hopes and have true sorrow. These people seek an escape and we say to them, “Don’t worry, be a good person and everything will be ok.” This is a lie. Namely this lie, the absence of the sense of the chosenness of a Christian, gives birth to the reluctance for missionary work. We are chosen; God chose us not so that we would pridefully strut and say that we are so good but in order to carry the light of God, to exclaim, “Join us on the boat.” You know there is a well-known anti-ecumenical picture: Christ navigating a ship which is being attacked on every side; this is true but the ship must rescue all those who are swimming in the water. But we do not even want to throw out nets. Further, sometimes those who attach themselves to the ship are pushed away. This is, of course, contrary to the Gospel.

I think that if we look at the Gospel and remember the Beatitudes we will see that many of them require missions.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matt. 5:7). What is superior mercy? Not to give money but to give eternal life. A beggar will spend the money after a few days but eternal life will be theirs forever.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matt. 5:9). What can be higher than when someone makes peace between a person and God? People fight against God and you, missionary, carry out Christ’s service, you are sent by the Lord Christ Himself and will receive His reward, as a son of God, says the Lord. Isn’t it so? But people say, “How can I be a missionary? They will persecute me.” Of course they will, for it is written, Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in Heaven (Matt. 5:11-12). The reward is huge in Heaven. But people have forgotten about the heavenly reward, forgotten that we live here in order to receive a reward there. We are too attached to the earth. You read the Orthodox press and what do they talk about? They talk about politics, about how to make things comfortable here, about how to create good relationships. But, forgive me, we for sure will be departing from here. Maybe we will depart today. We are all in the hands of God. Death is not over the mountains but over the shoulder as we say in Russia. People have forgotten this and don’t want to think about the fact that they need to prepare for eternity.

Furthermore, some people say, “To prepare for eternity is egoism.” But what did Christ say? He did not say, “Do not lay up treasure at all.” He said to lay up treasure in heaven where there are no thieves, rust, or moths. For where your treasure is there will your heart be. But people have forgotten about this; people lay up treasure on earth, live for the earth, and use God as a secondary power. As Pushkin wrote in the tale of the golden fish: the fish was at beck and call. Just the same way do people try to use God. Naturally, such a person will not preach if he even thinks of God as a tool for himself. This is all false and I suspect that such a person in actuality is not a Christian.

But the true Christianity is having pity for the perishing people. Fear to be punished by the Lord for burying one’s talent and desire to receive great reward in heaven-these are what must move a missionary. We should walk with God as the Lord said of Enoch, Enoch walked with God and…God took him (Gen. 5:24). Just that walking with God is the root of missions. In such a case you can see that both prayer and missions is, generally, the same thing. When I go out to preach, I kiss my priestly-pectoral cross and say, Lord, open Thou my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise (Ps. 50:17). I know that as soon as I depend upon myself the missions fail but as soon as I depend upon God it picks back up. For I am a servant of Christ, and any person can become a servant of Christ. Anyone can receive a reward and more than just that. The council of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted a missionary concept, and in it are some very important words. It says that missions of the Church is a continuation of the mission which Christ sent. Christ is the first Apostle, and the Word of Christ continues in us. In us, the Son of God Himself preaches. We are moved by the Holy Spirit Himself. Furthermore, do you know that God the Father is carrying out great espionage work? As the Lord says, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him (John 4:23). He seeks those people on earth who are ready to worship Him. And do you know through whom He seeks them? Through missionaries. He sends missionaries to find those people. Imagine what God the Father will say to us if we refuse? Of course the Lord will send others. He is compassionate, He will send others, but what will we have to answer for? The Lord will say, “A person was perishing here and you passed by. You refused to carry out My Word.” How will we stand before Him then? We will say, “Yes, Lord, but we prayed to you so well.” The Lord will say, “What does ‘we prayed’ mean? A person perished. Why did you disobey my direct Word? He asked for bread and you gave him a stone; you turned your back on him.” Rejection of missions is also disregard for the Judgment of God-disregard for the fact that we will answer for every one of our actions. It is disregard of the fact that even in secular law there is an understanding of “criminal omission,” the lack of rendering help to the perishing. This also relates to the spiritual law. The lack of rendering spiritual help-is this not a crime?

By my own experience, I can say that when you preach you are on the very edge. The Lord reminds you that you are walking before Him and if you want to fall into sin, you immediately get hit in the head-the Lord does not allow you to fall. But even if you have fallen, the Lord will pick you up and not let you become trapped in sin because, truly, He will remind you through His Word which you are saying.

What does a missionary need to do first of all? The Lord commanded us, ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Therefore, it is our business to be witnesses of Christ, which means to exclusively preach the Holy Gospel-not to preach Russianness, Serbness, Americanness, or whatever but to only preach the Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Speaking in such a way you will be judging yourself. Just imagine, you say “don’t fornicate” yet you yourself fornicate. The problems begin. You preach not to curse but you yourself curse. The very same problem. The Word of God starts to judge you when you preach. St. Gregory of Nyssa said so well that, “If you want to anoint someone with fragrant chrism, pour chrism on your own hand then on him. Who do you anoint first? You anoint yourself.”

And so, the Gospel for a missionary is a living book. It is not a text from which to extract quotes for theological papers. It is particularly the living book about which you always need to talk and by which you must live. A huge mistake made by missionaries is to try and dilute the Gospel. There is a passage in the Second Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians which says the following in Slavonic, “we are not as many, which corrupt [korchemstvovati] the word of God” [2 Cor 2:17]. Korchemstvo is from the word korchma, that is, a tavern. What do bad vendors do at a tavern? They take wine and add water, but so that it’s not noticeable they add some coloring. Wine in and of itself is healing and good for one’s health but when it has been diluted with water it looses its benefit, and the added poison may even harm. Incorrect missionaries do just the same. They say, “Well, people today won’t understand the direct Word of God.” Just a few days ago I was told, “Fr. Daniel, in vain do you preach so straightforwardly; it is not interesting for them to hear about Christ.” And, therefore, let’s add a little from ourselves. Let’s dilute the Word of God and make it more contemporary, more understandable, and more tolerant. However, it seems to me that, in actuality, particularly about Him [Christ] it is interesting. Politics are not interesting. And sports are not interesting. But Christ is interesting.

Yuri Maximov: I would like to add something. It is very important to understand what Fr. Daniel is talking about. Some people, speaking about missions theoretically, think that Orthodoxy has to be changed in order to be successful in missions. This is false. Particularly the patristic and evangelical preaching of Orthodoxy, not distorted, modernistic Orthodoxy, but traditional, healthy Orthodoxy, which we received from the Apostles themselves through the Holy Fathers, this exactly what can affect people. But modernistic “Orthodoxy” cannot attract anyone and modernistic missionaries, as a rule, are not successful. This is because modernism says, generally speaking, “believe as you please and live the way you want; it is most important to be a good person, then everything will be alright.” But such preaching may only attract those who need something comfortable and not those who need truth. If a person who needs truth hears the preaching of modernistic pseudo-Orthodoxy, he will say, “But I can still be a good person without that, why should I become Orthodox?” Modernists cannot essentially answer that question because their missions fail. And they think that missions in general fail and that people are not really interested in knowing the truth about God. But this is not true. People aren’t interested in hearing them speak because there is no power or truth in their words. But the Word of the Gospel, the word of the Holy Fathers that is true theology is interesting to hear even to simple people without a theological education.

Saint Theophan the Recluse said the following about this phenomenon, “The twelve Apostles went out and converted such a multitude of people, why? How were they able to do that? Because they did not proclaim their own philosophizing but the Truth of God. And in every person is a conscience which distinguishes truth from falsehood.” And so, when we tell another person our fantasies, he simply listens while nothing responds inside of him. He thinks, “Yes, he has thought up something interesting. Well, I’ve heard it and that’s enough.” But when we speak to him the Word of God, his conscience within him responds. It witnesses to him from the inside, “that which they are saying to you is the truth.” At this point two paths open up for him who hears the Gospel and feels within himself the action of the conscience. The first path is chosen by those who say, “I am following the Truth.” What does it mean to follow the Truth? It means to reject everything within oneself that contradicts the Truth. They say, “God is important to me, and everything sinful is unimportant. I will expel from myself all darkness-everything that prevents me from approaching God and I will go [after Him].” The second path is chosen by people who say within themselves, “No, I will remain with my sins, with my opinions, and with my philosophy.” And then their conscience begins to burn them like fire. Therefore, no one relates indifferently to Orthodox people: they are either loved or hated-particularly because such an action occurs in the conscience. We see that in the lives of the Apostles many people turned to them because truth within them echoed the words of the Apostles. But the Apostles themselves suffered at the hands of those who hated them.

Stanoje Stankovic: But there are such people who are indifferent to faith. In Elder Paisios of Mount Athos I read that indifferent people are the worst of all. One can speak to them of God and they will answer that it is not interesting to them.

Father Daniel: If someone says that God is not interesting to them, he is making his choice. God is not interesting to him means that he rejects God. It is a revolt against God. Beginning from this, the indifferent person will next come to hate you. That will be a choice for evil.

The job of a missionary is to be a witness. It is not his job to force someone to accept Orthodoxy or not. We cannot convert everyone. We can never do that. The Lord Himself didn’t convert everyone. This is because the gift of free will, which the Lord gave His creation, presupposes the possibility of a complete rejection. And, therefore, of course, we should not expect that which God did not promise. God did not promise that we would convert everyone. God promised that we would witness to all. I think that, unfortunately, we have waited a little too long. We still have not preached the Gospel to the whole world. Presently there is such a possibility. Everyday we repeat “Thy Kingdom come” but our inaction, by the way, delays the coming of Christ. If missions had been completed then the Lord would have returned, right? As it says, this gospel shall be preached unto all nations; and then shall the end come. [Matt. 24:14]

Stanoje Stankovic: Some people refer to St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) where he says that apostasy is allowed by God and we should not try to stop it with our feeble hands. How do the words of St. Ignatius relate to missionary work?

Yuri Maximov: This is in reference to those people who have already made their choice and when their choice is made you are not able to do anything with them. If a person doesn’t want to hear about God right now and you continue to insist, he will not become Orthodox but will simply come to hate you. And you won’t be able to change that. But if a person wants to know the truth, you will be able to change very much. You know, there’s a parable about a man who walked along the seashore after a storm. The storm had washed very many starfish on the sand so that all of it was strewn with them. The man saw a little boy taking the starfish and throwing them back into the sea. Going by he asked the boy, “Why are you doing that?” The boy answered, “If you don’t pick them up and throw them into the sea they will dry up and die.” The man objected, “Look how many starfish there are, you can’t change anything, you won’t manage to throw them all back.” Then the boy picked up another starfish, looked at it, threw it into the sea, and said, “Maybe I can’t change something for all of them but for that one I have changed a lot.”

Father Daniel: I would add the following. This is very important for missionaries to understand. We spend too much energy in order to stop apostasy but we don’t spend as much in order to save people. Indeed, trying to stop apostasy is impossible. Apostasy-revolt of man against God-is unstoppable. This is the truth. Remember that ancient Christians didn’t struggle against the pagans’ sin or licentiousness. Ancient Christians did not struggle even against the gladiators, they were saving the pagans. They gathered them and told them that they shouldn’t worship idols but should worship the One True God. And when pagans became Christians they gave up fornication, gladiatorial games, etc. And then, when the Christians became multiplied, only after that were debauchery and the gladitorial games outlawed. And we have turned everything upside down. We struggle with that which is impossible to overcome, while at the same time ignoring those whom we could save. This is a mistake. And St. Ignatius is completely correct when he says that we don’t need to busy ourselves with that. It’s not necessary to struggle with that which is impossible to change. But we can save those people who desire it. This is a very important moment. There is so much energy spent in Russia on the battle with those wretched INNs [individual tax number] and passports; if all that energy were spent on preaching Orthodoxy to Muslims then Russia would be quite different, do you understand?

Yuri Maximov: I would like to add something that our Serbian readers might not know. Saint Ignatius was a diocesan bishop in the Caucuses where very many Muslims lived, and he worked in missions. He had, as did every large diocese of the Russian Church, special diocesan missionaries who were to preach the Gospel to Muslims and other unbelievers. In Russia, until the revolution, this was common practice, and in his letters he mentions these missionaries as well as Muslims in his diocese who were baptized thanks to miracles. Therefore, it is absurd to think that St. Ignatius spoke against missions.

Stanoje Stankovic: I would like to ask a question about the state of Orthodoxy in Russia. There are some people in Serbia who say that Orthodoxy in Russia is being revived, that churches are being built, that there are Orthodox television programs, etc. But there are also people who say that Russia is corrupted like Swiss cheese, that it has huge problems, that people are suffering from drug addictions, alcoholism, etc. Which is true?

Yuri Maximov: You could say that both of them are correct. Truly there are problems. There are many moral and religious problems in Russia. But at the same time there are examples of holiness in Russia. These things are not mutually exclusive. If we look at the history of the Church we will learn that it has always been that way: in the history of the Universal Church, that of the Russian Church, and that of the Serbian Church. When I, for example, read the letters of St. Peter of Cetinje, I read a lot about the terrible moral state at the time in Montenegro both among the Serbian priests and the simple people. As he wrote, there were very many problems. But at the same time there was a lot of holiness and he himself was a saint of the time. You know, sometimes in Russia they want to judge the spiritual state of the Church by some external factors. Allegedly, if everything is well on the outside it means that spiritually everything is well, but this has never been the case. During the time of Sts. John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory the Theologian, as we know, there was the confusing Arian conflict and there were horrible problems in the Church.

Father Daniel: Saint Basil the Great, when he was asked, “How is the Church?” answered that it is like his body: everything hurts and there is no hope for its recovery.

Yuri Maximov: This is how it is in Russia right now. St. Nikolaj [Velimirovic] of Serbia said that the Russian soul doesn’t seem to have a middle: it either walks on the heights or on the bottom of hell. Not long ago I read the very same observation by a Belgian priest who lived for a few years in Russia. He said that, on the one hand, in Russia there are people who it is frightening to walk by on the street and, on the other hand, there is such holiness like nowhere in Europe.

Stanoje Stankovic: Yes, that article was on

Father Daniel: I would add that this concerns not only Russia. Simply, there are two cities: the heavenly city, which is a pilgrim on the earth, and the earthly city, which is being built on the earth. This is very obvious in Russia. In Russia there are two Russia’s. There is the Holy Church, which is traveling in this world.
This very distinct type is called “tserkovnik [church person]in Russia and I also call them uranopolitans, heavenly citizens. That is, those people who live here on the earth but have heavenly pursuits. There are not a lot of such people but among them there are truly wonderful people who truly carry out the Holy Gospel in their lives. I think that such outward things as, for example, Orthodox tv stations or radio, are not so important but what is important is the inner shining of holiness which, in fact, makes the Church the Church as such. And there are people who have made their home on the earth, who want to live here in their pleasure, and who “take everything from life [common advertising slogan].” Such people might even wear a cross or stop into church but they are unfamiliar to God. I won’t say forever, though. There is still hope for them and the Lord also visits them with both financial crisises and swine flu. God visits everyone in a different way and among them there are many who repent. By the way, it is interesting that this division is not in any way connected with financial position. There are righteous rich people and impious poor people.

Blessed Augustine said long ago that, “People belong to the traveling city when they love God to the contempt of the earth and themselves. And people belong to the earthly city when they love themselves to the hatred of God.” [City of God, Ch. 28?] This division is very distinct and in Russia it is very visible. One could say that they both are right particularly because it [Russia] is two lands. By the way, I think it’s the same in Serbia.

Stanoje Stankovic: The next question is about modern temptations that we have. In Serbia, they have started to introduce biometric passports and there is a temptation among people in the Church that think that if someone accepts a new passport they are denying Christ and accepting the mark of the Antichrist.

Yuri Maximov: This is demonic delusion and one of the traditional traps of the devil. This is easy to see through the history of Russia. Not long ago when they changed Soviet passports for Russian passports people said that those who accept Russian passports are no longer Christian and nothing will save them; one shouldn’t accept the new passports, they are from the Antichrist, you have to keep the old, Soviet, “good” passports. However, forty some years ago when they introduced those “good” Soviet passports all across the country similar people said the very same thing-that they were from the Antichrist and one shouldn’t accept them. And furthermore, even previously, before the revolution, under the tsar there were people that said the same thing-that one shouldn’t accept the tsarist passports because they’re from the Antichrist.

Father Daniel: St. Dmitry of Rostov wrote that in the 18th century at the introduction of the first passports and first paper money there were people that alleged that it was the mark of the Antichrist.

Yuri Maximov: What is the aim of this trap? To make a person look not to Christ but at some kind of outward things: passports, cards, barcodes, and such. But one person can’t serve two masters. It ends up that one doesn’t notice if they are with Christ or not, if they carry out his commandments or not, if they keep to the faith of Christ or not but they look at whether they accepted a passport or not, if there is a barcode on the package or not. That is, people stop looking at the essence and get distracted.

Stanoje Stankovic: People that have such opinions about new passports, etc. refer to the words of elders, Elder Paisius of Mt. Athos and some others, about which I don’t know anything except what is written on the internet. What should we think of this?

Father Daniel: We know that even the Holy Fathers committed errors when they taught against Holy Tradition. As St. Vincent of Lerins said that Holy Tradition is that which has been taught to by all, always, and everywhere. And, by the way, the teaching about a “stamp,” as some kind of external tool, or “pre-stamp” (in Russia they have come up with such a term) this is a teaching that only just now appeared. There was no such thing previously. But the thing is that this opinion is faulty also in a theological sense. Yuri Valeryevich spoke of the spiritual meaning and I will speak of the theological meaning. The fact is that for us what is most important is the covenant of a person with Christ. We have an agreement with God and He has one with us. As the Lord said that no one can pluck us out of the hands of the Heavenly Father because Our Father is greater than everyone. The Lord said that from His hands, no one can pluck us. And the very stamp of the Antichrist, which is described in the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, according to the explanation of the Holy Fathers-St. Hippolytus of Rome, St. Andrew of Caesarea, St. Irenaeus of Lyon-is namely a question of a personal agreement with the Antichrist. This is also a covenant only different. Not in vain did St. Andrew of Caesarea say that as we receive the stamp of the Holy Spirit in chrismation, so will the Antichrist give an evil, impure stamp. The question is not even about the technical means-this is a false way of thinking. For a stamp can be applied by a simple hand or whatever else. Because the essence of that stamp is not in technical means but in the fact that a person voluntarily moves to the side of the enemy. This is what is so important!

Many, for some reason, think that the Antichrist cannot identify a person without a stamp, but Satan will dwell in the Antichrist; as it says in the Epistle to the Thessalonians he will act according to Satan-and all evil spirits are subject to Satan. Evil spirits are after us and compromise us as they can. As it is written in the toll-houses of Blessed Theodora, they write down any evil deed that we do. Could it really be hard for the Antichrist to summon a spirit and ask where someone is located? It will be easy for him to ask. He will not need to pursue us for that. For the Antichrist, it is not important to know where a person is or what he is doing but what is important is that the person makes an agreement with him-that a union is made. And he will blackmail with the help of hunger. Therefore, trading will be outlawed and the idea will be simple: if you don’t worship me, I will starve you. This is the logic, understand?

And there is a deceitful substitution in this case-a substitution which sectarians made. The idea that INN and biometric passports, as well as passports in general, are the stamp of the Antichrist comes from schismatic environs. It was schismatics who thought this up about passports: first Russian schismatics of the Old Rite then beguny (there was such a sect as Yuri Valeryevich said). The idea concerning INN came from Seventh-Day Adventists. In the 1970s, one of the Adventist preachers saw a “vision” where a spirit revealed to her that INN is the stamp of the Antichrist; do you see from what kind of turbid source all these ideas come from?

Why does Satan propagate all of this? So that when the real Antichrist appears all those people who are afraid to accept the stamp will happily receive the real stamp, because they will seek the stamp there where it isn’t. They will look for the stamp in some sort of technical means which the Antichrist doesn’t need at all. The devil wants to prepare people so that when the real enemy comes they won’t be afraid. St. Hippolytus says the following, “What will the person say who accepts the stamp of the Antichrist? He will say, ‘I renounce God, the Creator of heaven and earth, His Only Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Church and give myself to you.'” You can see that St. Hippolytus was correct. The main thing with which the Antichrist seizes his own in our times is with denial of the creation of the universe. Is evolution nothing other than the preparation for the coming of the Antichrist? Of course, theistic evolution is especially that preparation. When one affirms that God created with the help of evil and death, this leads to the Antichrist. The affirmation that Christ is not the only way to God is the way to the Antichrist. The affirmation that outside of the Church there is salvation is the way to the Antichrist. The affirmation that we should make our home on the earth is the way to the Antichrist-as the Apostle Paul says, when they will say peace and safety, then comes destruction [I Thess. 5:3]; all of this is the way to the Antichrist. In ideology is the way to the Antichrist and not in technology. Here is truly a demonic substitution: to substitute technological systems for the question of an actual agreement. I will say that in the spiritual sense, many people now have agreed with the ideas of the Antichrist. The idea that there is one God but many paths to Him is certainly an idea of the Antichrist. But no one writes against it; no one fights against it. They fight against those things which have long ago become out of date. They say that there is allegedly a computer “beast” in Brussels, have you heard? But, forgive me, a computer “beast” made in 1976 is less powerful than mine which is lying right here. Even the recording device in your hands is more powerful than that computer which, allegedly, enveloped all of humanity. And some people are still frightened by these old things. This is simply folly of people who have fallen into prelest. And the reason for this is very simple: if you notice, the more someone begins to be involved in battle with INN or biometric passports the more uneasy, irritated, malicious, and aggressive they become. Can this be from the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit the God of disorder? As the Apostle Paul said, God is not the God of disorder but peace [I Cor. 14:33]. I have not yet seen one quiet and calm person who actively fights against the INN. They are all hysterical. There was one authoritive archimandrite in a large monastery, I won’t name him so as not to defame him, who actively fought against the INN and, as a result, he went out of his mind, literally. He began to run around the monastery naked yelling nonsense and ended up in a mental institution. Such is the spiritual obscuration which completely damaged a person. We have had people who started to withdraw to caves. Do you know about the Penza story? It is all a result of the very same prelest. Can that be from God? No, that is from satan. It is from satan particularly because the devil wants to fool people. He has fooled them so that they forgot about Christ and remember only the devil. You spoke of Fr. Paisius and I remember a story which I know first hand. In the 1980s, certain pilgrims came to Elder Paisius of the Holy Mountain and began to question him when the Antichrist would come. And he answered them, “Why? Are you anxiously waiting for him?”

Stanoje Stankovic: One more question about the spiritual life. What is necessary in order to resist modern temptations? Particularly which virtue is most important?

Father Daniel: Trust in God alone is most important. If we do not have trust in God, then our prayer turns into a torturous rule. A spiritual father turns into a psychoanalyst. Everything else becomes only empty development. We need to trust God personally. We must remember that we are under the care of God and He is with us. God truly holds us in His Hands. And no one can separate us from Him; as the Apostle Paul says, Who shall separate us from the love of God? [Rom. 8:35] Truly, if we are with God, all the remaining virtues will be formed. Prayer will become communion with God Who is with us. Obedience will become the ability to hear His Holy Word-to make it out in the uproar of this world. Obedience to a spiritual father will become the ability to see within him a living icon of Christ and the consideration, through him, of the Lord. A spiritual father is one who is leading to God but not one who is standing and humiliating the spiritual child. It is the same with humility. Humility is not saying that one is a bad person, stupid, or not able to do anything but it is the ability to understand that one cannot do anything without God yet with God they can do very much. By the way, humility has another side: daring, when a person recognizes what talents God gave him and for which he then will have to answer. Meekness will be connected at the same time with courage because meekness without God is cowardice but with God is courage. And it is the same in everything. Therefore, we must walk before God at all times, both modern and ancient, always.

Stanoje Stankovic: What attitude do Russian Orthodox people have toward Serbian saints: Holy Hierarch Nikolaj (Velimirovic) and Abba Justin (Popovic)?

Yuri Maksimov: St. Nikolaj of Serbia and Abba Justin Popovic are the most beloved, most well-known Serbian saints, as well as the most well-known Serbs of the 20th century in Russia. Knowledge of them began with a small translations, but the hearts of Orthodox people in Russia responded so lively to the word of the Holy Spirit that was in the works of those two Serbian ascetics that publishers, seeing such great interest, began to translate and publish more and more of their books. Now, if you go into a bookstore in Russia you will see a multitude of books from St. Nikolaj and Abba Justin. Moreover, if you look at modern Orthodox writings you will see quotes in them from St. Nikolaj and Abba Justin. This is an offering of the Serbian Orthodox Church that the Russian Orthodox Church accepted and now continues to accept with love and thankfulness. They both have very great authority in Russia, and I think this is also because St. Nikolaj had a particular talent of explaining difficult things simply and to explain it such that it would be dear to the hearts of modern man. Furthermore, he did not set forth a condensed or trimmed-down version nor primitive things but explained the very depths of our faith. And, therefore, love for him and his authority is very great, of course, which is understandable.  The interest in the heritage of Serbian ascetics has led to the translation and publication of other books of Serbian Orthodox writers, including modern theologians that are still living. But, as far as I know, not one of them is even close in popularity among Russians as those two pillars. And this is because reading a text of St. Nikolaj we feel how it touches our souls.

Father Daniel: I would like to add something. The fact is that the first translations of St. Justin were versions in 1970s samizdat. And then the samizdat versions done about 1982-1983 were able to achieve one important thing. We have to remember that ecumenism was characteristic in the Soviet period. We know that Orthodox Churches participated in it and that even hierarchs did, hoping that the only enemy was materialism (that idol) and that it would encourage the overcoming of the disagreements between Orthodox, Roman-Catholics, and others. This, of course, was a mistake. And particularly St. Justin’s work The Orthodox Church and Ecumenism in many ways changed the views of very many people who now practically formulate church life in Russia. This not only concerns theologians and hierarchs; truly that book had the effect of a bomb. I will say that, in my experience, simple people love St. Nikolaj very much, while St. Justin, in many ways, helped to change the outlook of people of a, so to say, theological disposition. In many respects particularly that stimulus which St. Justin gave in his work against ecumenism encouraged the re-evaluation of that phenomenon and led to the fact that now very little ecumenism remains in the Russian Church. In Russia, ecumenism is despised. Most people, even those who are involved in ecumenism, have to constantly justifying themselves, which was not the case previously. In the 1970s, ecumenism was accepted as completely normal. Now it is it looked upon as shameful, even by those who are involved in it. And here, truly, is the merit of St. Justin. First was Justin and then later they began to publish St. Hilarion (Troitsky) and other authors. But a beginning was laid specifically by St. Justin.

Two Takes on Sects

While you’re waiting for the second part of the interview with Fr. Daniel Sysoyev and Yuri Maximov (which is very close to being finished), contemplate some understandings on sects from some Russian points of view.

The essence of every sect consists in deviation from correct Orthodox religious-moral teaching, and the essence of schism consists in deviation from Orthodox-ecclesiastical leadership, that is, from Church discipline.

The inner causes for this deviation are (1) “unreasonable zeal” concerning salvation which stimulates the search for new ways and means of salvation, (2) conceit and pride causing discord, logomachy, and disunity, and (3) enthusiasm for various doctrines without appropriate leadership.

Fragment of Draft Variant of a Report of Metropolitan Gregory (Chukov) of Leningrad and Novgorod “On the Issue of the Struggle with Sectarianism” (July 22, 1945-April 10, 1946) Source

6.3. The Orthodox Church makes a distinct different between non-Orthodox confessions which recognize faith in the Holy Trinity and the God-Man Jesus Christ and sects which reject the fundamental Christian dogmas. Recognizing the right for non-Orthodox Christians the right for witness and religious education among groups of the population traditionally belonging to them, the Orthodox Church opposes every destructive missionary activity of sects.

Foundational Principles of the Relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church to Non-Orthodox (2000) Source

Serbian Conversations, Part 1

The following is the first part of a translation I’ve slowly been working on in my web-log absence. It is one of the last interviews that Fr. Daniel Sysoyev gave.

Serbian Conversations
Father Daniel Sysoyev and Yuri Maximov

“Shining as a star”
A few words about Father Daniel Sysoyev from Yuri Maximov

Late on the night of November 19, 2009, Fr. Daniel Sysoyev was killed in the Church of the Apostle Thomas on Kantemirovskaya in Moscow. An unidentified person in a mask entered the church and shot him point-blank.

I knew Fr. Daniel for ten years-since October 1999, when we met each other at a conference where we both spoke. He called me the night before, and on the day of the conference I saw a man walking in front of me in a riassa and immediately understood that it was the very same Deacon Daniel Sysoyev with whom I had spoken on the phone.

There was something similar in his voice as well as walk which expressed his uniqueness and allowed one to unmistakably recognize him in a crowd, even from behind and even to an unfamiliar person.

In one of his interviews shortly before his death, Fr. Daniel said that “we need to walk before God as He said of Enoch, ‘he walked before God and God took him.’ That walking before God is the root of missions.”

To shortly describe Fr. Daniel, he walked before God. And although that, in the first place, is the state of a soul completely directed to God, it even found its expression literally in his walk, not even mentioning his actions and words.

He walked with a light step, like a person who knows where he is going and why, one who is calm in the present and that does not worry about the future because he has entrusted all his cares to the Lord, Who is as close to him as a Loving Father.

During the ten years that I knew him, many times Fr. Daniel said that he wanted to die as a martyr. I am afraid that now those words will sound completely different than when he said them. When he talked about martyrdom there was neither gloomy solemnity nor unhealthy ecstasy. He would say it simply and with joy, and I, hearing this, would feel the same awkwardness and perplexity that I felt when I read in the epistles of St. Ignatius the Godbearer of his fervent desire to suffer for Christ. One and the same spirit was in the one and the other, and I understood neither of them.

I recall how a few years ago when we were in Macedonia I brought Fr. Daniel to the amphitheater in the ancient city of Bitol. Here, during the time of the Roman Empire, they fed people to wild animals for the delight of the crowds of pagans. On the sides, there remained two small rooms, in which the animals were kept before being let into the arena, and, in the center, there was a box the size of a man, from which the condemned would come out to his torment. It is certainly true that several martyrs of the early Church accepted death for Christ in such a way in that amphitheater. I said to Fr. Daniel, “Look, Father, you can stand there where the martyrs stood before going to their podvig.” And he went into that dark box. I remember how he stood there and gazed into sky.

Probably with the same concentrated peacefulness he was looking at his own murderer. I confess that I have thought about whether or not batushka was afraid at the final moment because I would be afraid. Therefore, I asked the one eyewitness that saw the murder with his own eyes what Fr. Daniel was doing when, leaving the altar, he saw a man in a mask with a pistol in his hand. I was told, “He was walking towards him. Right towards him.”

Father Daniel Sysoyev was born January 12, 1974, and was baptized when he was three years old. He was raised in a religious family. I remember how he told me of his cherished memories from childhood: how his mother would read him the lives of saints before bed.

Batushka treated the faith with consciousness and seriousness from a young age. According to him, from the time he was twelve, if his parents demanded something of him out of principle he asked for a Biblical foundation for it and if he received it then he would carry out the demand unquestioningly. In this is already reflected his principle desire: to know the will of God always and for everything and to follow it. He preferred God to anything else and preferred the will of God to any other will.

I know many good priests in Russia, but here I have never met a person who would love God as intensely, fervently, and selflessly as did Fr. Daniel. Not long before his death, I found myself at one of batushka’s catechetical talks, and I thought that only a deeply loving person can, without stopping, talk for two and a half hours about God and only about God and to speak in such a way that the people listen the whole time without stirring.

During Soviet times he already sang on the kliros, and, after finishing school, in 1991 he entered Moscow Theological Seminary. He would say to me that he had always wanted to be a priest and imagined himself as nothing else. That desire was born in him in childhood, when he underwent a clinical death and saw an angel, who returned his soul back into his body.

In 1995, Fr. Daniel got married, finished seminary, and was ordained into the diaconate. From that moment his extensive preaching and missionary activity began and he taught the Law of God to the upper classes at the Yasenevo Orthodox Gymnasium. One incident sticks out in my mind from his accounts about that time. One day he gave the topic “What will remain after I am gone? What will I take with me when I die?” to his students for an essay. Several parents came to him in indignation, “How can you give such topics to kids? You shouldn’t remind them about death.” To this he answered, “So your children are immortal?” Fr. Daniel was convinced that as none of us can avoid death, we need to properly prepare for it, for which a Christian has everything that is necessary, and the earlier we start preparing, the better.

Starting in 1996, Fr. Daniel led missionary discussions at the Krutitsk representation church working with Fr. Anatoly (Berestov) in the St. John of Kronstadt Pastoral Center. He met and spoke with members of various cults, preaching to them and converting them to Orthodoxy.

Besides Fr. Daniel, I have known no one who could boldly confront any audience and begin a conversation with a person of any religious view and always have something to say of substance. He was a true missionary, loved to tell people about Christ, and loved when, from the lamp of his soul, others would light up with the flame of evangelical joy.

Batushka highly revered his heavenly protector, the Prophet Daniel, and namely from him received his missionary aspirations, as he told me himself. At one time, reading the book of Daniel, batushka was struck by the words, And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Dan. 12:3). “And I thought,” he said, “how wonderful that is, to shine as the stars.”

I know that he prayed the Jesus Prayer, considered it very important to commune often, having prepared as is necessary, and constantly read the Bible, which, it seems, he knew a considerable portion by heart. Prayer, the Eucharist, and the Word of God were for him the three most important foundations for missions.

In his life he baptized more than 80 Muslims and turned to Orthodoxy around 500 Protestants. Father Daniel went to Protestant gatherings and preached about Orthodoxy on the foundation of the Bible and participated in public disputes with Old Ritualists and neo-pagans, but above all he became well-known as a missionary among Muslims and a polemicist with Islam.

He received letters and calls with threats from Muslims. A year and a half before the murder, Muslim journalist Halida Hamidullina requested the public prosecutor to open a suit against Fr. Daniel for inciting inter-religious and inter-ethnic hatred. The prosecutor refused the suit, but in Islamic mass media a full campaign of libel was undertaken; Orthodox people do not know about that as, understandably, they are unfamiliar with Islamic mass media.

Not long ago, just three days before the murder, Fr. Daniel was driving me home and we laughingly remembered life ten years ago. Fr. Daniel said that, of all religions, Islam had always been the one least interesting to him, and he did not plan at all to study it. I also reminded him of an old conversation we had when we were returning from Krutitsky representation church and he became glad when he found out that I was writing apologetic articles in answer to Islamic criticism. He said, “Well, this is good, that means that I won’t have to deal with it.” But the Lord, first, through one confluence of circumstances, then through something else arranged it so that he happened to come into contact with Muslims or the subject of Islam, and Fr. Daniel went forward where the Lord was indicating. This was the most important for him.

Fr. Daniel graduated from the Moscow Theological Academy in 2000 having successfully defended his dissertation, “The Anthropology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists.” Later this was published as a book. He also wrote a number of other books. A Walk with a Protestant in an Orthodox Church is a unique work in which, on the basis of the Bible, is explained the arrangement and furnishings of and Orthodox church as well as Orthodox worship. Chronicle of the Beginning and Who is Like God or How Long was a Day of Creation are devoted to, as he himself said, the defense of the Patristic teaching on the creation of the world. In these books, Fr. Daniel explains why an Orthodox Christian cannot adhere to the theory of evolution.

Marriage with a Muslim is dedicated to one of the most painful issues in the co-existence of Christians and Muslims in our country. The impetus for this book began when, on the website Orthodoxy and Islam a section was opened for questions to a priest, where one could ask Fr. Daniel questions. I was amazed with the abundance of letters we received from baptized women who either planned on marrying a Muslim and were asking if that is permissible according to the Church or had already entered into marriage with a Muslim and who were having various problems and were looking for advice. In addition, in Fr. Daniel’s pastoral ministry he had happened to meet such Russian women who, under the influence of such a marriage, had renounced Christ and converted to Islam, and then, having had lots of difficulties in a Muslim marriage and having realized their error, with batushka’s help, repented and returned to the Church. All of this induced Fr. Daniel to write a book in which he exhaustively looked at this issue, reminded people that, in accordance with the rules of the Church, it is inadmissible for an Orthodox Christian to marry a person of another faith, and also gave concrete advice on problems that arise if such a marriage, nevertheless, has taken place. He also wrote a booklet similar in content called Married to an Unbeliever?

In addition, Fr. Daniel published a book called Why are you still not baptized? in which he examined the typical objections against baptism that one hears from everyday people. For those who are baptized but unchurched, he wrote a booklet called Why One Should Go to Church Every Sunday. For churched people, Fr. Daniel, together with me, wrote On Frequent Communion. Not long before his death, he said to me that his most cherished book was Homilies on the Song of Songs, which is compiled of his Biblical homilies that he gave for many years, explaining the Scriptures on the foundation of the Holy Fathers’ commentary.

Finally, his last book was Instructions for the Immortal or What to do if You Have, Nevertheless, Died. In it he wrote the following words, “The very best death for a Christian, of course, is that of martyrdom for Christ the Savior. It is the greatest death that, in principle, is possible for a person. Some people sent condolences to Optina Monastery after the murder of three monks but, for a Christian, martyrdom, actually, is supreme joy. In the Ancient Church, no condolences were sent when someone was killed somewhere. All the churches immediately sent congratulations. Can you imagine congratulating someone with the fact that they have a new intercessor in Heaven! A martyric death washes away all sins apart from heresy and schism…”

Very many, even among those who were not in agreement with him about some issues, were surprised at and admired his courage. Not long ago, after the funeral, an acquaintance priest called me and said that he saw a video in which Fr. Daniel stands in an auditorium full of Muslims and from the podium he joyfully tells them about Christ and about how Islam, rejecting the God-Man Christ, cannot be true religion. “I just can’t comprehend,” he said to me, “What a heart one must have to simply go and stand among them and speak.”

The video about which he spoke was filmed at the first debate with Muslims. Some Orthodox were not happy with the fact that Fr. Daniel took part in those debates; however, the initiative was not his. Muslims had publicly invited him, and how could a witness of Christ refuse to give an answer for his hope? [1 Peter 3:15] His refusal would have been for them an argument in their propaganda for Islam.

Father Daniel later told me that he was sure that after that first debate he would be killed, and the evening before he felt great fear and worry. During the night he had a vision: He saw himself standing before a labyrinth made up of pebbles, the kind that there are in the north. Walking through the labyrinth in a circle he came to the center where there was an altar, on which laid a sacrifice which had just been killed. He understood that is was an altar of Satan and a sacrifice to him. Father Daniel was gripped with anger and knocked over the altar with his foot. Immediately appeared Satan himself in the form of a joker in a fool’s cap such as is on playing cards. His eyes were filled with wild hatred and he jumped on Fr. Daniel. Batushka started to pray, “Most Holy Mother of God, protect me!,” “Saint Nicholas, help me!,” as well as to other saints, and then something like an invisible wall appeared so that Satan jumped at him but was not able to reach him and bounced back time after time. Seeing this, batushka allowed in a vain thought and at that very moment Satan broke through the invisible wall and grabbed him by the throat. Father Daniel cried out, “Most Holy Mother of God, forgive me, I’ve sinned, save me from him!” Satan then disapearred and Fr. Daniel heard, “You will not lose but neither will you win,” concerning the upcoming debate.

“And that’s how it happened,” Fr. Daniel said to me. He added that after this vision he completely stopped fearing Muslims and their threats, as, after seeing Satan himself and his powerlessness before God, it is impossible to be impacted by any human evil which is always inferior to Satan’s evil.

During the second debate I, together with Fr. Oleg Stenyaev, was an aide to Fr. Daniel. It seemed to me that the debate went well (although, of course, it could have gone better). It is noteworthy that after this debate several Muslims who had helped organize the debates converted to Orthodoxy.

Being himself half Tatar (on his mother’s side), Fr. Daniel paid particular attention to spreading and strengthening Orthodoxy among the Tatar people. He was the first and, it seems, only priest who, with the blessing of his bishop, began to regularly serve molebens partially in the Tatar language for Orthodox Tatars. He also, with his own money, published a prayerbook in Tatar. Together with his aides, he preached at Sabantuy (a Tatar national festival) and at the Tatar cultural center. In Egypt, he preached for hours to his Muslim guide and on television he argued with mufftis about faith.

He acquired a scandalous fame among Muslims, which alarmed and discomforted some Orthodox but not Fr. Daniel. He said that his fame helped in his mission and that was the truth. For, those Muslims who had even a small interest in Christianity learned just who to go to, and they did not err as they were always met by Fr. Daniel with love and had all their questions answered. There were a few Muslims who, having come to him in order to convert him to Islam, as a result were baptized by him.

Among those who call themselves Orthodox, I have met such strange people who say that Fr. Daniel should not preach to Muslims, that one must respect their religion, and that there is no benefit from his preaching. But Fr. Daniel thought, as did the Lord, the Apostles, and all the saints, that one must respect mistaken people but not their mistakes. Truth is one, that which contradicts and negates truth is a lie, and respect for a lie is contempt for the truth. Those who are indifferent to truth cannot understand this simple fact, and, therefore, they did not understand Fr. Daniel, although they might have been obliged to him for their life. Batushka managed to turn to Christ a number of Wahhabi’s, including one Pakistani, who planned on becoming a suicide-bomber, and one woman who had the same plan. Would it really have been better if Fr. Daniel had not preached to those people and they, continuing their previous plans, had blown up an airplane, building, or subway car, maybe even one in which one of Fr. Daniel’s critics had been in?

With even more success, Fr. Daniel preached to Protestants. When he, with the blessing of Metropolitan Vladimir [Ikim, Metropolitan of Tashkent and Central Asia], came to Kyrgizstan together with his missionaries and began to visit Protestant meetings and convert them (even their pastors were among those who were united to Orthodoxy) so that the local leaders of the sects, not being able to oppose his words, made the decision to not allow meetings until Fr. Daniel had left the country. Thus, they tried to prevent him from preaching at their meetings by canceling the meeting itself.

Father Daniel also concerned himself with missions throughout the whole world. He and I traveled two times to Macedonia to preach there among the local schismatics. He also looked into the question of how to preach to Catholics in Western Europe and South America. In December 2009, he had hoped to travel to Thailand to preach in the northern regions. Being a missionary, he loved other missionaries very much and tried to become acquainted with all those who preached Christ, and he helped very many. He donated money for building a church in Indonesia and for educating Orthodox children from poor families in Zimbabwe and was a host to Chinese, Thai, and even Native American Orthodox. With the blessing of Patriarch Alexey II, Fr. Daniel established a school for Orthodox missionaries. In addition, he taught missiology at Nikolo-Perervinsk Theological Seminary.

What is striking is that is active missionary activity did not at all inhibit his parish work and responsibilities. In 2001, he was ordained a priest and in 2006 he built a small wooden church in the south of Moscow in the name of the Apostle Thomas (of which he was the dean). He eventually wanted to build a large basilica in honor of his patron saint, St. Daniel, at the same place. As he told me, the idea to build a basilica came up when he was visiting the Church of St. Demetrius in Thessaloniki.

Every Thursday Fr. Daniel led Bible studies, explaining one chapter from both the Old and New Testaments in the light of the teaching of the Holy Fathers. Every Friday he led catechetical classes, which every adult wanting to be baptized had to attend, and every Sunday he taught Sunday school for children. Wishing that people would better understand the church services, he published texts of the All-Night Vigil and Liturgy, established a rotation of people to hand them out before every service, and also introduced congregational singing. As a result, the parishioners were grateful to be able to finally understand the meaning of what was being sung in church. Batushka served very concentratedly, especially in his final year, and loved to preach. At the service he would preach two or three homilies.

One of my friends, an altar server in Fr. Daniel’s church, told me not long before batushka’s death that he was amazed how, without holding anything back nor with mercy for himself, Fr. Daniel gave himself to other people, especially his parishioners.

He truly did not spare himself. I remember how one day he broke his leg and he was not given a replacement priest. Fr. Daniel, then, with his leg in a cast, went himself and served in spite of the pain. All his parishioners and acquaintances remember Fr. Daniel as cheerful, but few know how often he endured pain and sickness, especially severe headaches and heart pain. Batushka, however, did not show his suffering and was always attentive to the multitude of parishioners, listening to them and giving them advice.

It must be said that batushka never imposed, as a dictator, his views on those around him. He always listened to objections if they were actual and often corrected his views if he saw that they did not coincide with the truth. He often invited me and other people who he trusted to discuss one or another of his thoughts and find out if he was mistaken. If he understood that he was not right then it was not a problem for him to admit it and repudiate his mistake because he valued truth more than his own thought and respected every person around him.

Another particularity, which many thought was one of his faults and which actually originated from his ardent love for the truth, was the categorical manner in which he expressed his ideas. With every issue, batushka strove to reach the truth and if he was able to get to it, he expressed that truth directly and with certainty. In our politically-correct world, such straightforwardness was similar to an acute ray of light piercing through the dark. That honest abruptness appealed to some but for some, on the contrary, it repelled them.

Fr. Daniel was an upright and honest person. He was one of those people that in need one would only need to ask and he would definitely not be refused. For me he was an icon of a priest. All that he did he dedicated to Christ and did in His name.

I also have many personal memories. I remember him visiting me when I was in the hospital, how he brought his daughter, Dorothea, to show me when she was just two or three days old, and how he taught me how to drive a car.

I recall our travels and especially the one to Serbia, from which we returned just a week before his martyric death. During that trip he confessed to me that when it is particularly hard for him or when life’s circumstances seem unbearable, he always felt like he was in an enormous hand, which was leading him through all the troubles.

The final day of Fr. Daniel’s life began with the liturgy which he served and during which, naturally, he communed. Then he baptized a child and united to the Orthodox Church a man who had converted from occultism. A few hours later, as usual, he lead a Bible study, after which he spoke with everyone who desired until late. Finally, when hardly anyone was left in the church, he went into the altar to hear the confession of a spiritual child. At that time the murderer burst into the church and began to shoot and yell, “Where’s Sysoyev?” Without fear, Fr. Daniel came out of the altar to meet him and accepted a martyric end for Christ.

I remember that batushka many times talked about how the Gospel readings read at the church services are not accidental and that they always turn out to be, to our amazement, timely and appropriate.

On the day of his death, the Gospel reading contained the following words of the Lord, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. … Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. [Luke 12:4, 8]

As His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill said in his condolences on the death of Fr. Daniel, “The Lord called to Himself His faithful servant, having given him the possibility to be a confessor of faith and martyr for the work of spreading the Gospel.”

Introduction to the conversations
About a week before the tragedy in the Church of the Apostle Thomas, Fr. Daniel and I travelled around Serbia. It was his first trip to that Orthodox country and it quite impressed and fascinated him. I remember how happy he was when we, just having landed, visited Krushedol Monastery, where lie the relics of St. Angelina, the patron saint of his youngest daughter. I remember how he insisted that we visit Sremski Karlovci, a beautiful little European city, which, is seems, has hardly changed in the last hundred years. I remember how at night we wandered around Kalemegdan, the Belgrade fortress, and, under a drizzling rain, went down to the church, leaving behind the towers and walls glowing against the dark sky.

During that trip, Fr. Daniel and I gave two interviews. The first was by the invitation of Ms. Jana Todorovic for the “Church” program of November 11, 2009, on Radio Belgrade 2. We were interviewed by Dushanka Zekovich. Afterwards she gave Fr. Daniel a disk with a recording of the interview. Father Daniel offered it to me and said, “If you want it, take it. I used to keep such things but then stopped.”

I took the disk and when I got home I put it together with my other presents from Serbia. And a week later shots were heard in the Church of the Apostle Thomas and Fr. Daniel was no longer among us: he accepted a martyric death for Christ and went to that Celestial Fatherland to which he strove his whole life.

After the burial of my cherished spiritual friend, with whom I was acquainted more than ten years, I found that disk and typed out our interview, which is one of his last, given eight days before his murder. And I myself was surprised at how closely it relates to that which happened. There were two main topics in the interview: Orthodox missions and the death of a Christian. It is striking how Fr. Daniel talked about this with joy and confidence as though he was speaking of it already from the other world, as an eyewitness.

We gave the second interview on the same day in the evening to Stanoje Stankovich of We were interviewed in a room in the parish house of the majestic Church of St. Savva, where we had been graciously invited to stay, with the blessing of Bishop Atanasije of Hvostanski.

That which Fr. Daniel said in the interview could probably be called a type of summation. He set forth the system of missions and catechism which developed from his wide-ranging practical experience and familiarized the Serbian readers with a look at the modern condition of Orthodox missions, formed upon the foundation of interaction with other missionaries of our Church. He also gave spiritual advice to missionaries, analyzed mistakes and problems, spoke of the Biblical foundation of missions, and responded to the opponents of missions. In addition, there was, naturally, a look at other contemporary challenges which the Orthodox Church is confronting.

And, of course, as in the other interview given on the same day, like a premonition was talk of death, which is “not over the mountains but over the shoulder,” and for which we must always be prepared.

For which he was fully prepared.

“And angels carry us on their wings to Heaven…”

Dusanka Zekovic: Today our guests are Fr. Daniel Sysoyev, writer, missionary, and dean of the Church of the Apostle Thomas in Moscow, and Yuri Maximov, a professor at Moscow Theological Academy, which is in the Monastery of St. Sergius of Radonezh. The first question is for Mr. Maximov: What is the current situation of inter-religious dialogue in the space of Great Russia, especially between Orthodox Christianity and Islam?

Yuri Maximov: In Russia, Muslims make up 9% of the population and they are of very different types of people. In history and in the present, relations between them and Orthodox people were both good and bad. You are aware that in recent years there were two major conflicts in the Caucuses: the first and second Chechen wars. At first, the situation was very similar to that in Kosovo, and it is not necessary to tell in detail to Serbs what that means and what suffering it brings. And although we won the second Chechen War and Chechnya remained a part of Russia, the relationship between Orthodox and Muslims sometimes becomes strained. Of course there are different types of Muslims and here, in my opinion, is a type of rule: If a Muslim is not that educated in his faith, then he is more likely a good person, but if a Muslim relates seriously to the source of his faith and studies its instructions and tries to put them into practice, then often it is particularly from such people that extremists come. That is a question and a challenge: how should we live in a world with such people? And how can the Church respond to that challenge? The Lord made it such that they live in those lands and we live together with them. It is impossible (and unnecessary) to relocate them or remove them in some other way. The Lord opens us up another way: to preach the Gospel to them and make them Orthodox Christians. For example, Fr. Daniel Sysoyev, who is here with us, at one time converted a woman to Orthodoxy who was being prepared to become a suicide bomber. But she was baptized and became a good Christian, who does not feel anger to anyone and does not plan to blow up anyone. Such an amazing miracle does the Lord perform: a way thanks to which our enemies can become our brothers. We try to preach to Muslims and many of them respond and become Orthodox.

Dusanka Zekovic: The next question is for Fr. Daniel. When we in Serbia speak about Russia, we speak of it before perestroika and after perestroika. Tell us, please, what presently, after those changes, is the spiritual reality in Russia?

Father Daniel: I think that currently a stratification of society is taking place in Russia. Some people choose Orthodoxy while others, knowing of Orthodoxy, reject faith and reject Christ. This is the type of division taking place, such as there was not before, during the time of perestroika. One of the main positive changes in the life of the Church is that it began to actively be involved in missionary activity.

Dusanka Zekovic: What is implied by missionary activity? Here in Serbia, people of other faiths say that the Orthodox Church is static, that it is insufficiently missionary, and that it participates too little in people’s social problems.

Father Daniel: When we talk about the fact that the Church must be missionary, we remember that the Savior Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, commanded all Christians to preach the Gospel to all people without exception. And, therefore, the Church is obligated to take the Word of God to all people. The Church must be active and not static, and that which is happening in the Russian Church is evidence that it is returning to its apostolic roots. Hundreds of priests and lay persons of our Church preach on the streets, go to the meetings of sectarians, and go to mosques and many then turn to Christ. I think that all of the Orthodox Churches must go and proclaim the Gospel to people. We should not be content with what we already have. Christ has very many sheep which we still have not found. Right now I have studying at my parish a family of Muslims from the Caucuses who wants to be baptized and they said to me, “Why did not you, Orthodox priests, come to our ancestors? Why did they not know about this truth? Why did we never hear about it in Dagestan?”

It often seems to us that we cannot do anything, but this is not so. The Orthodox Church can and does do very much for conversions. Some say that the Lord Himself leads people into the Orthodox Church. Yes, the Lord Himself leads people but through us, and if we lead a person to baptism then we cover a multitude of sins as the Apostle James said. We receive an enormous award in the Heavenly Kingdom if we turn people to repentance. Furthermore, when the Church preaches the Gospel to those outside itself, even to those of other nations, then the Church itself is rejuvenated, strengthened, and flourishes because the Holy Spirit then gives it strength in order to carry out missions also among its own people.

Some say, “First convert your own people then go to others,” but the Lord did not say that. If we have a neighbor who is a Muslim, Catholic, or Protestant why are they still not Orthodox? For we know that outside the Church there is no salvation, and those people, if they do not come into the Orthodox Church will perish forever, they will go into the eternal fire. We had an issue with Chechnya and some ask, “How can we preach to Chechens?” But I say that a Chechen who finds Christ becomes a better Christian than a normal person from a traditional Orthodox family. I had an acquaintance who was a Chechen Wahhabite and he came to me to convert me to Islam. We decided to examine where the truth is. Over the course of two months I told him about Christianity and afterwards he asked me, “And why haven’t you offered to baptize me?” I said, “If you believe you can be baptized,” and he was baptized. His name is now Alexander.

Dusanka Zekovic: What is the Church’s solution for the social problems in Russia, which, I think, it has in common with those in Serbia? For we know that many have become very rich, unjustly rich, and, on the other hand, there are many poor people. A person is not just a soul but also a body, so how do we help poor people? Is it missionary activity to turn to some rich person and convince him to help the poor?

Father Daniel: Of course, every priest comes in contact with both very rich people and very poor people. And, truly, missions in the Church also includes social help. In Moscow there is a hospital which the Church maintains with the help of, among others, the wealthy. There are several dozen Orthodox orphanages in Russia. The Church looks after hospitals; every hospital in Moscow has Orthodox volunteers. And in many ways, thanks to the Moscow priest Fr. Arkady Shatov, very man rich people help the poor. There is a complete system for such help. In addition, all the nursing homes are looked after by the Church. Many of our volunteers visit the poor. And, of course, the Church opposes injustices which take place in society. Both Patriarch Alexey and Patriarch Kirill have many times asked the rich to support the poor, and their request was heard. As a result, thanks to the Church, many people receive help, necessary for the body.

Dusanka Zekovic: Before me is a book of Fr. Daniel Sysoyev which is named Instructions for the Immortal, or What to do if You Have, Nevertheless, Died. Tell us, father, what are those instructions?

Father Daniel: The Orthodox Church not only knows that the soul of man is immortal but also knows how death happens, how to correctly prepare for death, and what happens after death. I think it is best to start with how to prepare for death. We, all of us, know that we will die, maybe tomorrow. And it is important to have a place to which to go, that we have a house beyond the grave. That house we build with our good deeds. With the help of acts of mercy we transfer treasure to that house. When we are a friend to people, when we ask them for prayers, and, more so, when we turn them to Orthodoxy, then we have people who will be our defenders on that road. Of course, we must perform every deed in the name of Christ or else it will not have any value. But, at the same time, we must strive so that those close to us help us when we die. It is especially important that our relatives invite a priest to visit us before our death. It often happens that someone is dying and their relatives do not even invite a priest to confess and commune them and people leave for eternity without preparation. Therefore, I advise all to include the following clause in their will: “If the heirs did not invite a priest to visit me before death then they do not receive any inheritance.”

When a person dies he is met by angels. The angels of God help a person while demons attack him and intimidate him. Two weeks ago I was with a person as they were dying and I saw how demons were attacking him. This is not a joke, it is truly so. Only the Orthodox faith, the power of the cross, and, especially, Holy Communion can protect such a person. Therefore, if after death demons attack you, cross yourself and say “Lord Jesus, help!” and particularly ask the Most Holy Mother of God. She quickly protects from the demons. And then, after death, rise up to heaven, not concerning yourself with the earth, and run quickly to God, then the demons cannot attack you. The demons detain those at the toll houses who are attached to the earth, those who think too much about the earthly. If a person has striven for God his whole life then he will not even notice their attack. But remember that the demons will trick you with the help of the sin of vanity. To Macarius the Great, when he was rising up, the demons said, “you have conquered us! you have conquered us!” But he answered, “Not quite yet,” and only when he had entered the gates of paradise did he say, “now I have conquered you with the power of Jesus Christ.” Just the same do we need to prepare early and get in the disposition not to boast and be captured there. When you get into paradise, and I want all our listeners to end up in paradise, go to your beloved saints. Therefore, while still on the earth make friends with them, with St. Savva, St. Paraskeva, St. Nicholas, and, in this case, they may even approach you after death. And then, when you bow down to God, He sends you to look at hell, because often we think that sin is sweet and pleasant, but the Lord says, “Look at how it ends.” Therefore, the Church fervently prays for people during the 40 days following their death, because at that time is the final trial for the soul. Close ones can help during this time with both the giving of alms and reading of the Psalter-I think that all our listeners know this but to repeat it is never superfluous. Some of our close ones act incorrectly: they spend too much money on funeral feasts when it would be better to give that money to the poor who would then pray for the reposed. Those whom we have brought to Orthodoxy will, of course, especially pray for us. For example, those former Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Protestants who became Orthodox thanks to us. And angels will carry us to heaven on their wings. Remember that life is a school and paradise is a university. And true life begins after the Final Judgment. Therefore, I hope that we will prepare well to be able to live eternally in joy.

Dusanka Zekovic: And how can one earn paradise?

Father Daniel: Jesus Christ has earned paradise for us. Without the death on the Cross of the Savior, we would all end up in hell. And so all those who are currently unbaptized will end up in hell because they did not receive help from the Cross of the Lord. We receive salvation as a gift through baptism but assimilate it for ourselves, that is, make it our own through good deeds. And we receive strength for good deeds through the Eucharist, which we need to partake of as often as we can-not more than once a day but not less that once a month.

Dusanka Zekovic: Thank you for these instructions for immortality; and now I would like to ask Mr. Maximov about the meaning and necessity of missionary activity in the modern world.

Yuri Maximov: I would like to start with a short story from the ancient life of the Holy Apostle Thomas. It says that when the apostles chose lots for which lands they should go to, the Apostle Thomas picked the lot for India and he was very upset and said, “Lord, anywhere at all, just not India.” He did not at all want to go to such a far away, unfamiliar land in order to preach the Word of God. The Lord Jesus Christ then appeared to the captain of a ship, which was going to India, and said, “I am selling you My servant whose name is Thomas.” The captain found the apostle and asked, “Are you a servant of Jesus Christ?” “Yes,” answered the apostle. And then the captain said, “Your master sold you to me so follow me.” So he had to go and, as a servant of the captain, set off for India. In this way, having ended up in India against his will, the apostle began to preach, fell in love with the people, and turned many souls to Christ. This story has something in common with the newest history of the Orthodox Church. In the first thousand years it had many missions, but in the latest hundred years Orthodox Christians preached very little or hardly at all. In the 19th century there were even theologians who wrote as if the Orthodox should not preach to anyone. And look what the Lord did in the 20th century: for absolutely every Orthodox Church, He created such conditions that we were forced to go to other countries. Russians, Serbians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Georgians, and Orthodox Arabs were all forced, as a result of one or another misfortune or trouble in their homeland, to spread out over the planet. In such a way the Lord acted with us just as He did with the Apostle Thomas.

You have probably heard how in our times Serbian priests in South Africa preached to the local population. There it was such that white people lived separate from black people and even Orthodox white people were afraid to go to black peoples’ areas. But the Serbian priests were not afraid and went to a school where black children studied, told them about Orthodoxy, and after a year and a half the whole school became Orthodox. Officially the director made such a decision, supported by the children and their parents. This is a great work which shows that missions are possible.

It is well known that many people right now are experiencing depression, weariness, and disillusionment with life and its senselessness. This results from the fact that we do not fulfill the commandments of God. Therefore, the power of God and joy of God does not enter into us. But when we begin to carry out the commandments of God, one of which is to preach the Gospel, then enormous spiritual joy and inspiration comes to us. Everyone can verify this with their own experience-If you preach not for your own sake, not for your own vanity, but for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ then you will be given such a joy.

Dusanka Zekovic: With that wonderful call we conclude our conversation with our dear guests, the first of which is the writer and missionary Fr. Daniel Sysoyev, and the second of which is Yuri Maximov, professor at Moscow Theological Academy.

The Power of Love and Not Force – Interview with Fr. Vladimir Vorobyov

During the patriarchal ministry of Patriarch Alexey II a completely new task stood before the Church: to learn to be self-sufficient and be independent in relationship to the government. According to Archpriest Vladimir Vorobyov, the rector of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Humanitarian University, not one patriarch of Russia had so much work to do. Until Patriarch Alexey’s time, the Russian Church had long been called the “Church of silence” in the West. In his time the Church began to speak with its full voice.

– What role does the patriarch have in the Orthodox Church? There were, as you know, times when there was no patriarch.

– The Church is a living organism, and, just as every organism, it goes through historical periods in its development: infancy, childhood, adolescence, and maturity. In the first centuries of Christianity, when the Church had only just coming out of its cradle in Jerusalem, there was not such a developed structure as there is now. The first Local Churches, in essence, were diocesan in our understanding or simply communities: the community of Ephesus, of Antioch, of Corinth, etc. All of those communities had their own bishops. The Revelation of St. John the Theologian has a greeting to the seven churches of Asia Minor; it is written, “unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write… Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write…” (Rev. 2:18, 2:1). The “angel of the church” here is the bishop, the head of the city’s Christian community. The bishop served one liturgy for the whole city, and all the Christians of the city communed at one eucharistic gathering.

The Church is a living organism, and, just as every organism, it goes through historical periods in its development: infancy, childhood, adolescence, and maturity. In the first centuries of Christianity, when the Church had only just coming out of its cradle in Jerusalem, there was not such a developed structure as there is now. The first Local Churches, in essence, were diocesan in our understanding or simply communities: the community of Ephesus, of Antioch, of Corinth, etc. All of those communities had their own bishops. The Revelation of St. John the Theologian has a greeting to the seven churches of Asia Minor; it is written, “unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write… Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write…” (Rev. 2:18, 2:1). The “angel of the church” here is the bishop, the head of the city’s Christian community. The bishop served one liturgy for the whole city, and all the Christians of the city communed at one eucharistic gathering.

But when the times of persecution were over and masses of people and whole states turned to Christianity, the church structure, which to a certain degree copied the governmental structure, came into existence. This imitation was reflected in many ways, for example in the garments of bishops and priests; episcopal and priestly vestments contain elements of royal vestments; for example, a mitre is a crown. Canons appeared according to which bishops of different dioceses were called to be subordinate to each other, and to have the first among them without whose agreement nothing could be done. That is, a “vertical power,” as they would say today, appeared but with the following reservation: that power in the Church is a power of love and not force. Although, even Apostle Paul says to his disciple the Apostle Timothy, “preach the word, Be ready… Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all patience and teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:2), that is insist.[1] It turns out that the bishop does have a few elements of the power of force (insist, rebuke) because the Church has a divine nature while at the same time having both a divine and a human element. The human nature of the Church needed a hierarchical structure of power and so it was gradually developing: the so-called Local Churches arose which are connected to a particular territory. Every Church today functions in this way whether it is headed by an Archbishop, Metropolitan, or Patriarch, to whom are subjected bishops, to whom are subjected communities headed by priests.

There was a period in the history of the Russian Church when there was not a patriarch. In the beginning of the 18th century, Peter I did not allow for a new patriarch to be chosen in place of Patriarch Adrian, who died in 1700, and put in his place the Holy Synod (a collective agency of bishops and an ober-procurator-the representative of the government) as some sort of “ministry of Orthodoxy.” In effect, the tsar himself stood in the place of the Patriarch: that which he directed, through the ober-procurator, the Synod to do, they were obliged to carry out.

The Church needs a head just as does every organism: in every family there must be a head, in every organization there must be a director, and even at every gathering there must be a chairman. A head is needed for management and coordination so that an organism can carry out a normal life. When the head is changed for an impersonal institution, it may lose initiative, independence, and, to a considerable extent, responsibility, because responsibility is spread out over a certain “collective.” But, as you know, every bishop and, even more so, every patriarch is burdened with immense responsibility and always acts according to his conscience. Conscience is the voice of God in man’s heart. It is possible, of course, to speak of a conciliar hierarchical conscience. When there are councils of bishops and they sing together “the grace of the Holy Spirit today has assembled us”[2] we believe and hope that the voice of God will sound in the heart of every bishop and that they together will be able to proclaim the Truth, pronounced to them by God. But arranging such a council is not easy, and it is the council’s decision that choses a patriarch or primate of the Church for the time between the councils to govern church life, so to say, “not leave the helm unmanned,” for, as history shows, even for the most mobile synod it is impossible. In essence, during the time of the Holy Synod, it was the ober-procurator who turned out to be at the helm.

– During the time of Patriarch Alexey, the Church acquired influence on society. At the same time people have misgivings that the Church became dangerously close to the state. How did Patriarch Alexey see the relationship between the Church and the state?

– The phrase “became dangerously close to the state” is blurted out by people who still live with the psychology of the Soviet man. If one considers that the state is atheist, it wittingly is an enemy of the Church, and that every approach to such a state means that the KGB will penetrate into the Church, then, of course, any kind of cooperation is dangerous. But in our state atheism has already for a long time not been the official state ideology, and we see that representatives of the highest administrations are often believers; the security agencies do not interfere in Church business. Furthermore, the Church itself even as the early as 1990s refused to take part in the organs of power; clergy, for example, cannot be elected to the Duma. Where is this dangerous approach to the state? What does it consist of?

When the Church collaborates with the state in spying, politics, and military projects it is truly dangerous for the Church. But if the Church has a common interest with the state in the fields of charity, health-care, education, and peace-making how can collaboration be bad? Why not use the enormous potential of the Church for good deeds, why should we not help care for the elderly and orphans and help the poor? For example, there is the Hospital of St. Alexey of Moscow which was given to the Church by the state, which also partially finances its activity. Is this collaboration of the Church and state? Without a doubt it is. But what is bad in this type of collaboration? The state has allowed for the building of private Orthodox schools and gymnasiums and, if they are accredited, then, in Moscow, the government will give money to those schools just as to regular schools. What is bad in this? Where is the danger here? Today the state does not interfere in the inner life of the Church, in its direction. As a priest I can say that with complete responsibility. An enormous deed of the deceased Patriarch Alexey is that new relationship, in which we live, between the Church and the state, which he constantly built and improved and left us as an inheritance the ability to further work in that direction and to further perfect this relationship.

– Patriarch Alexey considered the dialogue with society to be one of his most important tasks. What in that dialogue was most important to him?

– In his public activity, Patriarch Alexey, after decades of silence of the Church during persecution, showed again that the Church brings to the people good news of God, love, goodness, and salvation and proclaims the moral law instituted by God. People’s salvation in eternal life and help in this earthly life is the activity of the Church. For this purpose, it is necessary that the voice of the Church be heard so that society would know about the Church, so that the Church would not be isolated, and so that the Church would be, to use juridical language, a completely public institution, which fully has the capability to express its opinion, to speak out, and to witness to truth and goodness.

Patriarch Alexey encouraged all of the bishops and clergy to have “a good report of them which are without,” as the Apostle Paul says (I Tim. 3:7). That does not mean that we have to be somehow insincere or curry favor before those without. At the liturgy, the bishop proclaims the words of the Savior, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Patriarch Alexey lived just that way and called his whole Russian flock to live that way. The duty of the Church is to witness to the truth. Christ commanded this duty to the Church, and this is its mission. In and of itself witness to the truth has an immense significance for this world because the world lays in evil and evil is the devil, about whom it says in the Gospel that he is “a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). Evil always acts through lying. Therefore, to speak the truth is the first duty of the Church.

The Church must condemn sin and not indifferently observe as people drink, steal, and kill each other, destroy themselves with narcotics, break up families with infidelity, and so on. As one of the worst sins, Christ named indifference, lukewarmness. Can a father not care when his children are taught evil? If he does not care, it means that he does not love his children. If he loves them, he will not allow someone to teach them to steal or drink. Patriarch Alexey, as a loving father, bitterly suffered over the degradation of the Russian people and constantly spoke out against the corruption of the youth, bacchanalian sins, the commercial exploitation of vices in our country, and the worldwide freedom for evil, which now so often is hidden under the cover of “human rights.” I remind you of his presentation in Strasbourg in October 2007 at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.[3]

– How, in your opinion, did Patriarch Alexey manage to maintain a benevolent relationship with the authorities?

– Patriarch Alexey was a good, loving, and wise man. When he saw good in people, he always appreciated it. But if he saw evil, he never assented to it. In order to speak the truth courage is necessary, and the governmental officials respected this courage in the patriarch. Here is a very vivid example. During the war with Georgia, our patriarch was abroad, and, having learned what was happening, he at once called the warring sides to, without any conditions, immediately lay down their arms and cease shedding blood. He told both sides, not entering into the political problems of his government.

Patriarch Alexey, with great dignity, represented the Church, not entering into any compromising relationships, but formed his relationships with the state so that there was no damage to the authority of the Church. That, I think, is one of his greatest deeds.

– Today, thanks to documentaries about the patriarch, we have found out more than we expected: it turns out that Patriarch Alexey loved animals and to collect mushrooms. These details allow both the faithful as well as society more thoroughly and less officially to imagine the personality of the primate of our Church. What is your opinion as to what extent, in general, that the patriarch should be known by society, that is, his private life, to what extent should he be a figure open to the public?

– I think that it is good when a patriarch is open to people and society. But there is a particular difficulty here: a patriarch is a man who is vested with much authority; he is a spiritual leader and a father, and to him are directed a large amount of people’s requests, complaints, and sorrows. If we “give the patriarch to the people,” what will happen? Therefore, we have to guard him, and sometimes also bishops and priests, especially elderly ones, who have much authority, because a man can simply not endure such a burden. This is not because he is fleeing his people; he was always turned to the people with love and preached, and, when he could, always tried to comfort, respond to, and receive them. He worked without rest, as long as he had the strength; he mercilessly treated himself but strength runs out; there are [only] 24 hours in a day. Even Christ, as the Gospels witness to, sometimes went to a mountain to pray in solitude.

– A patriarch is a pastor but also an administrator, directing the Church. To what degree is a patriarch required to be a manager?

– A patriarch directing the Church must, of course, have corresponding capabilities and talent. But he is also given divine help. To be an administrator is very difficult and one tires from such work-I know from experience. One time at one of our meetings he asked me, “How are you doing?” I answered, “Your Holiness, it is so difficult to manage. Administrative work is something without grace, it takes away all ones strength.” The patriarch smiled and very tenderly said, “No, Fr. Vladimir, to manage people is also a charisma.” That is, it is a grace-filled gift. And that grace-filled gift is given to the patriarch, by the prayers of the Church, when he is enthroned. I think such an explanation is more fitting of a patriarch than the concept of a manager.

– In your opinion, what traits must a first hierarch have? What qualities are most important for the service of a patriarch?

– The most important quality is holiness, that is, faith, love, and selflessness. If a patriarch has devotion to God and the Church, selfless love, and the readiness to give himself over to the service of God and the Church, then the Lord with his grace will supply that which is missing. Our patriarch clearly displayed this!

– What was the particular mission of Patriarch Alexey, considering that the Church acquired a new status, it became free, during his primacy? And what struck you the most in Patriarch Alexey?

– He was truly a great patriarch-great in his personal spiritual scale. He was a man with an acute mind, high culture, noble Orthodox education, and a huge experience of archpastoral activity. In his personality, we see the combination of a great office, a great podvig, and a great soul. His personal traits were love, openness towards people, and joyfulness.

The Lord, through the patriarch’s hands, re-established our Church in its magnificence. He restored the religious life of our people and returned their faith to them. Of course, however, not yet completely. We would like that our people believed more [fervently]. But this is certainly not that same time as it was upon the arrival of Patriarch Alexey on the patriarchal throne.

The most important thing in a man’s life, as it seems to me, is to come across someone holy in their life. My spiritual father said, “Christianity should not be spoken about or proved but shown.” If the Lord allows one to see a holy person, then everything immediately becomes understandable and evident. Patriarch Alexey was a person who showed faith in God to the people. And the people returned to the faith, they started to go to Church. Not one patriarch in the history of the Russian Church did as much as Patriarch Alexey. He traveled around so many dioceses, blessed so many churches and monasteries, ordained so many bishops priests and deacons… And thus, having traveled around the whole country, he turned it to be able to see the Church. “We need to find a path to the church” were his favorite words. And he was showing this path to the people. Looking at him and loving him, the people went to church.

Patriarch Alexey headed the restoration and building of churches and monasteries, seminaries and Orthodox education in general, the re-building of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the canonization of new martyrs and confessors of Russia at the jubilee council of the Russian Orthodox Church [2000 A.D.], and, last of all, the unification of the two parts of the Russian Church which had separated for many decades. All of that together would seem to be inconceivable, absolutely beyond one’s strength, and unfeasible. But the grace of God, which was acting so evidently through Patriarch Alexey, was giving him the strength and worked a miracle.

It is necessary also to mention another extremely important deed of Patriarch Alexey, which is often unjustly ignored: he firmly directed a course towards a eucharistic revival in the Russian Orthodox Church. Up to Patriarch Alexey’s time, it was common almost everywhere to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ very rarely, and people were not given communion on Nativity, Theophany, and Pascha at all. Patriarch Alexey, from the first day of his patriarchal ministry to the last, whenever he had the strength, himself communed everyone who strived to come to him to the very last person. He blessed people to commune often as well as on the feasts, and during the celebration of the divine liturgy he recited all prayers aloud. At some point, probably from over tiredness, he started to have problems with his voice and microphones began to be used. Due to that, probably not without God’s Providence, everyone who was standing in the church could hear the patriarch reading the priestly prayers in the altar and he was reading them in an absolutely marvelous way: with unusual simplicity, magnificence, and with some sort of inexpressibly beautiful intonation. Thus, the patriarchal liturgy became accessible, in much more fullness, to all the worshippers.

Of course, the most wonderful and unforgettable image, which will remain in my heart forever, is the way he celebrated the liturgy. In his every word was a prayer. He said nothing for appearances, as often happens with the clergy. He put his heart in the the words of his prayer. And the service became wonderfully exalted, moving, spiritual, noble, and lofty. It is impossible to express in words. Patriarch Alexey is an example of how we should celebrate the liturgy. As a whole, he struck everyone with his genuine magnificence; in him were shown the greatness and dignity of the Russian Church. Yet, Patriarch Alexey conversed with anyone in such a simple, natural, tender, friendly, and respectful manner that it seemed as if he was raising up the person to himself, not putting them down but elevating them. When I would come into his office feeling, naturally, nervous, the next moment everything would become so simple and easy, and I would talk to him as to my father, sincerely and without fear. He was very glad when someone asked him pastoral questions.

In many cases, Patriarch Alexey had to look at some problem in a new way and it was not easy when there was already some conventional understanding of the issue. To do that, one has to be open-minded, to refuse the already established view, and to sense the will of God. All of this is possible only for a spiritual person.

The Church also has its own problems which must be solved. Patriarch Alexey did very much so that such problematic issues were raised, so that they were not suppressed. It was difficult sometimes. I remember when we started our institute [4], we wanted to name one of the departments as missionary. We were told, “It is forbidden to pronounce the word ‘mission’!” And this was already the 1990s. “Name the department ‘catechetical’ as this word is not understandable.” And presently this is allowed, we now have a missionary department. This seems funny now but such a reality was truly the case. Our Church had long been called the “Church of silence” in the West. After decades of persecution we lost the habit of speaking, we were afraid. But Patriarch Alexey was not afraid. He removed those bans, and the Church began to talk, under him, with her full voice.

Dmitry Rebrov and Maria Abushkina

[1. The Slavonic and Russian Synodal Bibles have “insist in season and out of season.”]

[2. From the verses on Lord I Have Cried for Vespers of Palm Sunday.]

[3. see: ]

[4. St. Tikhon’s University was raised from the status of institute to university in 2005.]


Have You Thanked Your Babushka Today?

By Initiative of the Syktyvkar Eparchy in the Republic of Komi Will be Celebrated the Day of Orthodox Grandmothers

Typical Russian Orthodox Babushka
Your Typical Russian Orthodox Babushka

The press secretary of the Syktyvkar and Vorkuta Eparchy, Igumen Philip (Filatov) announced that on July 24, believers of the eparchy will for the first time celebrate the day of Orthodox grandmothers. According to him, it will be celebrated on the day of Holy Equal to the Apostles Princess Olga (in baptism Elena) the grandmother of the Holy Prince Vladimir, the baptiser of Rus’. Princess Olga has a particular place in the assembly of saints of the Orthodox Church. The uniting of Rus’ to the family of Christian nations and peoples was in many ways a result of the upbringing that she gave to her grandson. Fr. Philip remarked, “Presently Mother’s Day, the Day of Love, Family, and Fidelity, and Father’s Day are celebrated in Komi. It will be just to also remember about the older generation, i.e., grandmothers. Specifically our grandmothers carried the Holy Orthodox Faith through the difficult time for the Church of the Soviet period. Moreso, our Church also now in many ways stands upon their prayers. Upon the older generation partially lies the responsibility for the moral and spiritual upbringing of grandchildren. We hope that the celebration of grandmothers will become annual and have already appealed with a request to support our initiative to the minister of education of the Republic of Komi”.

“On the morning of July 24, in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Syktyvkara the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated. On the square in front of the cathedral will be served a moleben, after which believers will proceed into the White Hall of the house of the bishop. Students of the city’s orphanages, summer workshops, and Orthodox children’s camps and Orthodox grandmothers with their grandchildren are invited to the celebration. At the bishop’s house will be tea and a musical concert,” recounted Fr. Philip. (Source)

Icons for the Blind

An Iconostasis for Blind and Poor-sighted Children to be Unveiled in Lipetsk

Healing of the Blind Man

A house-church with a special, three-dimensional wood iconostasis will be opened for the next school year in the Lipetsk specialized (correctional) general education boarding-school of the III-IV type for blind and poor-sighted children reports Blagovest-info with reference to the information agency Lipetsk Regional News. “The uniqueness of the iconostasis is in the fact that the icons will be adapted for the students of the school-they will be crafted in 3-D so that the students can by touch distinguish the images of the saints and the inscriptions in Braille, understandible to poor-sighted and blind people,” said Vice-Principal Elena Demekhova. Bishop Nikon of the Lipetsk and Eletsk Diocese gave a blessing for the church to be named in honor of Great-Martyr Panteleimon (patron of health services). “Work on the erecting of the church will be carried out through the course of the year on the schools funds, and woodwork will be done by teachers of the school Nikolai Neklyaev and Alexander Belyaev. The priciple material for the iconostasis is linden,” explained the vice-principal.

Demekhova remarked that this is not the first time that the school has worked with the diocese, as, by the children’s request are meetings with clerics and a choir for church singing has been formed. “Currently the correctional school has 333 students,” she added. The director of the school, Igor Batishchev, has been named a National Teacher of the Russian Federation. A few years ago the department for religious education and catechism of the Nizhny Novgorod Diocese organized a program for the spiritual nourishment of the blind. Icon carver Roman Baturin became the director of the program.

At one time Roman Baturin was the only craftsman in Russia producing icons for the blind. These icons differ from typical icons in that they are created in the form of a bas-relief. The blind can “see” such icons with their hands. In order to give the effect of ancientness, he soaks the wood in tea, coffee, and iodine. About two years ago [sic] the successful artist rejected earthly goods and began to lead an ascetic type of life. Having left his prestigious work, he returned to Nizhny Novgorod and began to carve 3D icons on wood for the blind. His acquaintanceship with Irina Sumarokova, chairman of the Nizhny Novgorod society for the blind and author of the international project for the blind The World on the Tips of the Fingers. In 2000, the work of Roman Baturin was blessed by Nikolai (Kutepov, +2002), metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas. At the begginning of 2006, a icon workshop was opened in Nizhny Novgorod for the creation of relief icons for blind people. (Russkaya Liniya)

Feast Day of Sts. Kirill and Methody

To fill a small part of the void while ROCOR United is on vacation, I am reporting on one of Sunday’s happenings in Moscow on the feast day of Sts. Kirill and Methody (also, by the way, the name’s day of the Patriarch).

I started translating the following article and got worn out with the multitude of names and positions so decided to sum up the second half…

On May 24 the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Equal to the Apostles Kirill and Methody, teachers of the Slavs, and the name’s day of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus Kirill.

Co-serving with His Holiness were Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk Philaret, Exarch of All Belarus; Metropolitan of Dnepropetrovsk and Pavlograd Irenei; Metropolitan of Kaluga and Borovsk Kliment; Metropolitan of Pskov and Velikoluka Evsevii; Metropolitan of Tashkent and Central Asia Vladimir; Archbishop of Saransk and Mordova Varsonofii, Archbishop of Volokolamsk Hilarion, head of the Department of External Relations; Archbishop of Berlin, Germany, and Great Britain Mark (ROCOR); Archbishop of Klin Longin; Archbishop of Krasnoyarsk and Enisei Antonii; Archbishop of Sergiev Posad Feognost; Archbishop of Vologoda and Veliki-Ustug Maksimilian; Bishop of Cyrene Athanasius, representative of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to the Moscow Patriarchate; Bishop of Philippopolis Nifon, representative of the Patriarchate of Antioch to the Moscow Patriarchate; Bishop of Provatsk Ignaty, representative of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria to the Moscow Patriarchate; Bishop of Bakinsk and Prikaspiisk Alexander; Bishop of the Baltics Seraphim; Bishop of Bryansk and Sevsk Feofilakt; and Bishop of Solnechnogorsk Sergii.

On that day His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus Kirill served the Divine Liturgy in Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin.

Following the service there was a Cross procession from the Kremlin to St. Basil’s on Red Square to which place another Cross procession had come from Theophany Cathedral of the former Theophany Monastery.

Many churches in Moscow celebrated their normal Sunday liturgy earlier in the day so that people, as well as priests and deacons, would be able to make it to the procession. My wife and I were a little late to the procession and were also thwarted from joining it by the police who had blocked off all other streets beside the marked procession route and did not allow anyone through. So we backtracked and made it to the procession as it was making its final approach to St. Basil’s. As the patriarchal service in the Kremlin evidently hadn’t ended yet, the crowd waited for about 30 minutes until the procession from the Kremlin arrived. At that point the Patriarch served a moleben to Sts. Kirill and Methody after which he addressed those present with a short homily. After his homily Nikita Mikhalkov, as the head of the Director’s Union and head of the Cultural Fund, said a few words (his words, however, were more about Orthodoxy itself than culture). You can see the official pictures of the event here (and, by the way, the guy in one picture who looks like a biker is a biker; it is “Hirurg” of the bike club Bike Center) but to give you a layman’s perspective I offer the following snapshots:

The procession from behind the fence
The procession from behind the fence



The army on the left was sent in to keep the Orthodox in line...
The army on the left was sent in to keep the Orthodox in line...




Homily on St. John (Maximovich) – Part II

The second, and final, part of a homily on St. John (Maximovich) by Bishop Basil (Rodzianko). (Follows part I.)

Our next meeting was already after the war. I was, actually, in a Serbian parish; not one of my parishioners left at all because that was their homeland, it was their village and they lived there. For them, paradoxically, the arrival of the Soviet Army (at that time it was still called the Red Army) was liberation and truly was liberation from those who conquered them, the Germans who occupied their land and did unbelievable crimes. Well, how could a pastor leave such a flock? Of course the conditions were different for the White Russian emigres and for those simple Serbian peasants. But if I was the pastor of that flock then I had to stay with it. And I remember how I read the Gospel just in that place where it says But he that is an hireling…seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep…and scattereth the sheep. …the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep (John 10: 12, 11).

For me it was a very pointed question. I knew well that the Serbian Church had already established eucharistic communion, that is, communion in liturgical service and in Holy Communion, with the Russian Orthodox Church and as soon as complete liberation came there would be established complete communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. But all my family and all of that White emigration, as is well known, was in the Russian Church Abroad. By request of the Serbian Church I was ordained into the priesthood by Metropolitan Anastassy who was the head of the Russian Church Abroad. And although I immediately went to a Serbian parish, nevertheless, ordination is ordination and I felt, in that sense, that I was mysteriously, in the very depths of the mystery of the priesthood, connected to the Church in which were my parents, my brothers and sisters, and all my family. Therefore, here was, of course, an issue for me because I knew what the theory was of those of the Church Abroad in relation to the Moscow Patriarchate after the declaration of Metropolitan Sergei on loyalty to the Soviet power. This was all, of course, on a political foundation but, nevertheless, there was something spiritual in it also. And, therefore, this question was very pointed for me: I knew that, remaining with my flock, which was directly according to the command of Christ in the Gospel, I was, by that fact, actually going from communion with the Church Abroad into direct communion with the Russian Patriarchal Church, the Moscow Patriarchate. When I decided that question for myself, I understood that it was a fundamental issue about the fact that the Divine Grace of the Eucharist, that is, Holy Communion, is higher than Church jurisdictions, that is, being subject to this or that Synod, Council, or bishop. And, having stood on that path, I did not step off it at any time because the Church was higher for me than earthly paths. The Divine nature of the Church, expressed in the hierarchy and in the Mysteries, was higher for me than the human nature of the Church, which can sometimes be mistaken.

I thought that I would just remain forever cut off from my parents, behind the Iron Curtain, and never see them again. But then I suddenly travelled to Paris, after they let me out of a Yugoslavian communist prison and, you could say, “advised” me to leave Yugoslavia (this was after Tito had argued with Stalin), and from the Paris train station went where? To the Russian Church Abroad where I was asked to serve. And the first thing that I said after our first meeting and mutual tears, I said directly and openly to Vladyka John that I cannot, according to my conscience, throw stones, as many in the emigration did, into the Russian Orthodox Church, its Patriarch, and hierarchs. Do you know what he said to me? He said, “Everyday during Proskomedia I commemorate Patriarch Alexey. He’s Patriarch. And our prayers, all the same, remain. Owing to circumstances we ended up separated but liturgically we are one. The Russian Church, as with the whole Orthodox Church, is eucharistically united and we are with Her and in Her. Administratively, for the sake of our flock and well-known principles, we have had to act in that way but that in no way breaks our mystical unity of the whole Church. Therefore, being a Serbian cleric, you can serve where you want, of course, in canonical Churches, so come and serve with me.” And such, according to his holiness and his truly blessed vision, the unforgettable Vladyka John (Maximovich) treated me.

We returned to Paris from London where we had traveled for two months in the summer to meet with my sister who lived there at the time, as well as many relatives and friends. And my matushka, my now deceased wife, fell ill. Something unclear happened, she had a terrible pain in her hip, she was not able to walk, she was not able to move, and we barely brought her there, to the school, where we lived in Versailles and immediately called a French doctor. The French doctor looked her over for a long time, shook his head, took me to the side, and said, “You’re going to have to get used to the idea that she will not be able to walk anymore. You will have to buy her a special chair on wheels. And this is for the rest of her life. But, in any case, we’ll send her to the hospital for a full and complete exam.” Well, can you imagine, after all the trials, which we had already had, after my being in prison, after all the difficulties that my deceased wife had, can you imagine that?

Vladyka John at that time was away. When he arrived and found out about it, he immediately called me and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll come tomorrow and commune her. Then you can take her to the hospital.” He served liturgy alone; I was with my wife at the time. After liturgy (this was the school-house church), completely vested, came with the chalice. With the chalice, from liturgy he came, just so. He stopped at the doors and says, “Maria, get up! Come and commune.” And she suddenly stood and went. He asks, “Does it hurt?” “No.” “Well, now commune.” “You’ve communed? Now go and lie down again.” She laid down. It was as if in a dream. He left to consume the Holy Gifts back in the church and I remained with her. She says to me, “The pain has left. I don’t feel anything.” But, nevertheless, in the afternoon the ambulance came and took her to the hospital. She was there for a few days and then they sent her back with a note from the doctor: “Why did you sent her to us? She is completely healthy and has nothing at all.” What it was, how it was, only God knows. I’m only saying that it was. [The preceding is a slightly longer version of the miracle about which Felix Culpa recently posted.]

After that, we stayed for a little more time with Vladyka John there in that school, with those children, in that church. I served there with Vladyka and it was an unforgettable time. And at the time when we traveled to London to meet with relatives I also met there with, we’ll say, one of the great fruits of the Church, Serbian Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic. I could also say a lot about him but at present I’ll just say that we met with him and he just gave me an obedience: “come here to London, we need a Serbian priest and you are one, although you’re Russian you’re also Serbian; you know Serbian, so come.” We had been acquainted with him already for a long time in Yugoslavia. And, well, I said that to Vladyka John (he revered Vladyka Nikolaj very much, knew him closely, and served in his eparchy in Yugoslavia). And Nikolaj about him, about Vladyka John said, “Here walks on the earth a living saint.” Well, those two saints, so to say, collaborated, met, and both decided that I needed to be in the London Serbian Church and I went there. And I remember how we departed. How Vladyka John stood and saw how we left in a taxi and he made the sign of the cross with both hands, non-stop, until we had gotten to the end of the road. Such is how I see him now with his tender smile, with his astounding glance, child-like, loving, and fatherly, and blessing us on our new path.

After some time in London suddenly there was a phone call. Vladyka John was calling, “I’m here, in London, come and serve with me!” And I straight away went. At that time he was the head of all the Church Abroad parishes in Western Europe, including London, while I at that time had met and formed a good friendship with my new spiritual father, Vladyka Anthony of Sourozh, who is even now in London. I served permanently with him. And there, of course, (it was a Patriarchal Church) we commemorated Patriarch Alexey. That in no way hindered Vladyka John from inviting me to serve in London in the opposite, so to say, Church. My friend and spiritual father did not prohibit this. Vladyka John even rejoiced in it, and Vladyka Anthony did as well. So, through me, a sinner, at that time, there was complete peace and love between both Churches, which officially were in discord. The saints sometimes perform just such type of miracles.

The next meeting happened there, in that very apartment in London, when he appeared to me after his death and returned me, in the full sense of the words, to the liturgical path. As there were trials and temptations at that moment and he knew it, he had to, you could even say, coarsely wake me up, jab me under the rib and say, “Go and serve the liturgy!” And I went and served. Well, Ye shall know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16).

Language of the Church

I happened to be in attendance at the presentation recently reported on by ROCOR United and here present a few impressions. One thought which Dr. Sedakova expressed which I had never heard before was the idea that the language of the Slavic Church has never been simply understandable to every Peter, Paul, and Mary that comes into contact with it. That is, when Sts. Kirill and Methody did their translating, they were, on the one hand, translating into the language of the people, using what concepts there already were in the language, but, on the other hand, they had to create new words for new concepts that were absent in the Slavic language of the time.

This thought reinforced my personal opinion that what is needed is not necessarily translations of services into the most up-to-date language but education and a desire of the people to take an active part in Church life and the services.

In relation to that I happened across the following article from last year:

Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev): The Translation of Church Services into Russian Won’t Solve the Problem of Their Comprehension

The problem of the comprehension of Church services by the parishioners should not be decided by simply the translation of liturgical texts into modern Russian, according to the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions, Bishop of Vienna and Austria, Hilarion.

“Some consider that it is necessary to translate Church services into Russian and that then everyone will immediately begin to understand everything. But I think that not everything will be understood and, by far, not by all,” stated Bishop Hilarion in an interview published in the magazine United Assembly (Soyuznoe veche) of the Belarus-Russia Community Parliamentary Assembly.

His Grace urged to take into mind as well that the texts of the Church services were written in the 8th-9th centuries by Byzantine poets living “with completely different notions than modern people.”

Bishop Hilarion recalled how one time as an experiment he read the Canon of Andrew of Crete in Russian after which he himself considered and compared his feelings with the parishioners and that “it was no more understandable to anyone with the change of language.”

“It is such lofty language in which allusions are made to various biblical personages, whose names we don’t even know… In a translation into Russian it doesn’t become more understandable,” remarked His Grace.

Understanding of the liturgical culture of the Orthodox Church, according to him, “demands considerable energy.”

At the same time, Bishop Hilarion underlined that “the Church must build bridges between itself and un-Churched society.”

“Unfortunately, the Orthodox Church, by virtue of its historical and cultural features, is separated from un-Churched society by a wide cultural gap. To overcome this gap, for modern man-not just youth, but also those, as they say, getting on in years-is truly not easy,” remarked the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate. (Source)

Another thought sparked by the idea that Sts. Kirill and Methody didn’t exactly translate into the language of the people is the irony in the fact that so many people use their example as a reason for wanting to translate and modernize the services…

And Patriarch Alexey’s take on the matter:

The liturgical language of the Church becomes completely understandable and easily accessible to all who decide to seriously treat the matter of their churching*. But if there is no such seriousness then no translation will increase the number of people in churches.

Textbooks for active learning of the foundations of Slavic grammar have been published. Regular and conscious participation in Church services allows one to use such a textbook almost without problem. And it is supposed that an Orthodox person is introduced to Church Slavonic since childhood. The fact that several generations were estranged in their childhood from normal liturgical life and now have difficulties with language is a tragedy and not a correct practice. Church Slavonic is a deep language, capacious and lofty. Any natural change in a language happens organically and slowly. All of the people take part in and contribute to that process. And it is simply not possible to immediately translate everything into a new language. The losses and distortions from such a forced action will be incredible and catastrophic not only for the Church but also for the whole of national culture.

His Holiness Patriarch Alexey II

(*воцерковление – refers to the process of entering into the life of the Church)

Homily of Patriarch Kirill on the Sunday of Orthodoxy

Follows my translation of the homily that Patriarch Kirill gave last Sunday. This address is very relevant to the current transitional time in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church and emphasizes the patriarch’s faithfulness to maintaining Orthodox Tradition. For the full effect you can hear and see the homily being delivered by clicking here.

On March 8, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, Kirill, served the divine liturgy in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. After the service he addressed those present with his first-hierarchal homily.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

The first Sunday of Great Lent in the language of the Church Typicon is called the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. This Sunday is numbered among the great feasts and it is not accidental because the feast of the Sunday of Orthodoxy was established in the distant ninth century due to events of huge significance. In 787 was the Seventh Ecumenical Council at which the heresy of iconoclasm was condemned. The iconoclasts, who denied the propriety of venerating holy icons, destroyed holy icons and called those who venerated holy icons, icon-worshipers. As the imperial power supported this heretical trend, the persecution of those who venerated holy icons was supported by the power of the Byzantine emperor. Unfortunate monks hid themselves in the eastern regions of the empire, especially in Cappadocia, where there were, and to this day are, many underground caves. There, deep under the earth, they hid Church treasures-holy icons-and raised up fervent prayers before them.

By the mercy of God, this dangerous time of the heresy of iconoclasm was overcome. The iconoclasts were condemned and it was decided on the first Sunday of Great Lent, to celebrate the victory over iconoclasm, as well as the victory over all heresies that shook the life of the Church over the first millennium. Great was the hope of the fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council that from then on not one heresy or deviation would shake the Orthodox faith. Namely as a sign of this hope was the feast established which we celebrate today.

However, the following second millennium after the Nativity of Christ also gave examples of many attempts to divide the Church and distort the Orthodox doctrine. These attempts have not even ceased up to the present day. And therefore, for us the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy is not so much an enumeration of the battles with heresy during the first millennium as much as a reason to, once again, fervently pray that no heresies, divisions, or deviations from the true faith would shake the unity of the Church of God.

Every Orthodox person must understand what the foundation for Church divisions is. The normal notion of a heretic is that it is a synonym for a robber. This is how it also was in antiquity. One of the heretical councils, which denied the existence of human nature in the Son of God, went down in history as the Robbers Council. For believers, a heretic was like a robber, and, in essence, this is how it is. But among the heretics there were also many pious people, fervent in faith, and zealous. Indeed, and would thousands of people really follow an actual robber, profligate, or sinner? People follow after strong leaders who know how to persuade, who can show a personal example. The majority of heretics were just such strong Church leaders who held great authority among the people.

It is enough to remember Arius, a priest of Constantinople. He was a preacher, a sage, and a theologian. His name was extremely authoritative in Constantinople. People, defending Arius and his teaching, engaged in conflicts with each other. History reports examples of the fact that arguments in markets broke out and even physical fights because there were many people ready to die for Arius.

We also need to remember, reflecting on the subject of heresy and division that, with a few exceptions and also excepting the newest sects, the main heretical movements in antiquity originated in attempts to protect Orthodoxy, preserve its purity, and give people a more clear understanding of dogma. To Arius, it seemed necessary to bring the understanding of the incarnation closer to the mentality, knowledge, and worldview of the people at the time. It seemed to him that if he were to speak of Christ as a creation, then that teaching would correspond better to Holy Scripture and would be accepted by the people, and, therefore, the people’s faith would be stronger. In his teaching Arius had good intentions to defend the faith, as he saw it.

The following heretical movements also strove to, allegedly, defend the Orthodox faith and preserve its purity. Thus, Nestorius believed that not God, but a man, who only gradually rose to a divine height was born of the Virgin Mary. He spoke and taught so convincingly that up to the present his followers exist. For us Orthodox people, living in Russia, that name is only known from history books; no one bothers to think about the heresy of Nestorius. But I happened to be in Iraq before this terrible war and met local Christians. I discovered that a majority of the Christians in Iraq venerate Nestorius. When I was riding in a taxi from the airport, to my amazement, I entered into a theological argument with the driver, who asserted the illegitimacy of the word Theotokos in relation to the Virgin Mary, as Nestorius had asserted it in the distant fifth century. Probably, if his speech weren’t so convincing and his life were sinful, then people wouldn’t have followed after Nestorius.

And such examples can be continued. Up to the present there are Christians who don’t recognize the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ but believe only in His having a divine nature. And among them are pious ascetics, monastics, and theologians.

What, then, is heresy? How can heresy be distinguished from the difference of opinion accepted in the Church? How is a heretic distinguished from a zealous Orthodox Christian wishing to defend and preserve the purity of his faith? There is only one method. Every heresy generates schism, and where there is schism there is no love. We know this too well from our lives. Families fall apart: spouses divorce and the children turn away from their parents when love disappears from the family. No matter what good and kind words one spouse says, there, where there is no love, there is no pure relationship nor unity. The same takes place in the Church. If we meet with a person who affirms that he is fighting for the purity of Orthodoxy but in his eyes burn the dangerous fire of anger, he sees heretics everywhere, he is ready to go to battle and will not stop before the division of the Church, he is ready to shake the foundation of Church life, supposedly to protect Orthodoxy. When in a person who has been offered to head a heretical movement we do not find love, but only anger, then this is the first sign of the fact that this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing similar to Arius, Nestorius, and many others, who fervently preached, not having love in their hearts, and were ready, for the sake of their own rectitude, to not stop before the division of Church life.

Unity is there, where there is love and where there is love is God. If it occurs to someone to say something about doctrine which breaks with the tradition of the Holy Fathers and the Ecumenical and pious local councils, then such a person must consider well why, in the name of what goal, he is proposing this or that innovation. If from the mouth of such a person we hear a flood of abuse, occasionally even dirty slander, which rains onto the Church and her servants, if we hear fervent calls to battle, to division, to the salvation of Orthodoxy even to death, when we hear such slogans as, “Orthodoxy or death,” we need to beware of such preachers.

The Lord never said, “My teaching or death.” Not one apostle said, “Orthodoxy or death.” Because Orthodoxy is eternal life, joy in the Holy Spirit, joy of life, beauty of life, but death is decay, the result of the fall, and the devil’s influence. Among us even today appear, from time to time, false teachers who tempt the people with the call to save Orthodoxy, to save its purity, and who repeat that dangerous, sinful, and contradictory slogan, “Orthodoxy or death.” In the eyes of such people you will not find love; in them burns the demonic fire of pride, the striving for Church power, and the destruction of Church unity. On the outside all this may have a pious look, a good appearance, and enjoy the veneration of a number of people.

That which we say in relation to heresy is also true in relation to any other division. Sometimes in our parishes arise divisions among the clergy or laity. Often these divisions are connected with a battle for a certain superiority, a certain power in the parish. We know how sometimes the parishioners are divided and gather around one or another priest. Respect towards one or another pastor and love towards him is lawful but division in the name of love is sinful because where there is love there can be no division.

We must preserve the unity not only of universal Orthodoxy from every heresy and schism; we not only must preserve as the apple of our eye the unity of our Local Church, the Church of the martyrs, who earned by suffering the right to be one and undivided. We must also preserve the unity of our parishes and monasteries remembering that the most important characteristic for the evaluation of the action of any Christian, from a patriarch to a simple layman, is love. If there is love there is Christ! If there is not love there is not Christ!

May the Lord help us all preserve the unity of our Church, to save it as the apple of our eye, taking a lesson from the terrible examples from the past, but, at the same time, being inspired by the podvigs of the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical and pious local Councils, who guarded, defended, and upheld the unity of the Church of Christ, asserting that in the foundation of Church life there is one undoubted law, the law of love, which saves. Amen.

Source: Press Service of the Moscow Patriarchate

Patriarch Kirill’s Plans

According to his first interview as patriarch, Patriarch Kirill, following his first hierarchical visit today to Smolensk, would like to visit Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, and…Kiev. Let’s see what Yushchenko and his croonies have to say about that. I will remind you that, at that time, Metropolitan Kirill was a major influence on the EP not supporting Yushchenko’s bid for his own church.

Patriarch Kirill the TV Show Host

Moscow. February 2, 2009. Interfax – Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus, following his pick as first-hierarch, will continue to host the program ‘Word of the Pastor,’ which for nearly 15 years has been broadcast on Saturdays at nine AM on First Channel.

‘His Holiness, the Patriarch, plans to continue to address his arch-pastoral words to TV viewers who are interested to know the thoughts of the Church about very different aspects of peoples lives, happenings in the country, the meaning of dogma, and events in Church history,’ said a source at the Patriarchate to an Interfax Religion correspondent.

Patriarch Kirill thus becomes the first first-hierarch of the Russian Church who will weekly address the flock using modern technological means.

Continuing his 15 minute TV show, Patriarch Kirill has definitely made a wise move-his already popular oratorial ability and voice of Orthodoxy will be even more respected among both Orthodox and non-Orthodox. Patriarch Kirill here has a unique opportunity to let the Word be heard in modern society with the authority of a Patriarch.

Acceptance Speech of Newly-chosen Patriarch Kirill

Your Eminences and Graces, your Very Reverend, Reverences, honorable Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!

With humility and complete understanding of the responsibility I accept the fate of God through which I am given over to the Patriarchal ministry. It is great. It is a responsibility. But in the center of this service is the Cross of the Lord, the Cross of such a size which can be known and felt only by the one which carries it.

I remember the words of His Holiness Patriarch Alexey who often spoke of the great cross of Patriarchal ministry. But this cross is carried by the Heads of the Churches although this is beyond the strength of one man. They carry it because together the bishops, priests, and people of God carry it also. They carry this cross because they very Church carries it together with the Patriarch. And as the carrying of the cross is distributed so is responsibility as well as glory. When good words are addressed to the Heads of the Churches they are also addressed to the people of God, priests, and bishops: all of those who together with the Heads carry the heavy cross and great responsibility before God and before history.

Accepting from you the manifestation of the will of God, I ask forgiveness for my weaknesses, for you to help me with your advice, and to be by my side in the carrying of the Patriarchal ministry. But most of all I ask for your prayers; such prayers which, I know, were given by people participating in the decision of our Local Council as well as many others from their loving and believing hearts.

May the Lord bless our Church, our people, our land in which our Russian Orthodox Church carries out its service, and all those who with their prayers and deeds have approached this hour. Again and again I ask you to remember me in your holy prayers.

Press Service of the Moscow Patriarchate


Archimandrite Neophytus (Osipov) Canonized

At a regular meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on Friday, January 23, 2009, the following act was issued.

Into the List of Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia is Added the Name of Archimandrite Neophytus (Osipov)

On Friday there was a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church at the Patriarch’s Residence in Danilov Monastery.

At the meeting a report was read by the chair of the Synodal Committee for the Canonization of Saints, Metropolitan Juvenally of Krutitsy and Kolomna. The report was about the materials received by the committee regarding the canonization of new-martyrs and confessors of Russia who suffered in different dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Holy Synod ordered to include into the list of new-martyrs and confessors of Russia of the 20th century the name of Archimandrite Neophytus (Osipov; 1875 – November 3, 1937), material about whom was presented by the Moscow diocese, and to inform about his canonization to the heads of all the Local Orthodox Churches for inclusion into the calendar.

Press Service of the Moscow Patriarchate


I have gathered the information which I was able to find on the internet concerning St. Neophytus and have compiled and translated the following.

Neophytus (Nikolai Aleksandrovich Osipov)

St. Neophytus (Nikolai Alexandrovich Osipov) was born into the family of a military doctor on May 5, 1875, in the city of Avgustov in the Suvalsk Province. He studied at the Kholm Theological School and Seminary finishing in 1897 after which he went to study at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy at which he became a candidate in Theology in 1901. While in the academy in 1900 he was tonsured as a monk followed by ordination as a deacon and priest. He soon returned to Kholm where he was an instructor in the Kholm Theological School from 1901 to 1902.

In 1902, he went to Peking to be a member of the Peking Mission where he, an expert in Chinese (as well as Ancient Hebrew) translated services into Chinese. From 1903 to 1905 he was an inspector at the Tikhvin Theological School. He next returned to Kholm where he was the rector at the Kholm Theological Seminary followed by being rector at the Samara Theological Seminary where he was promoted to Archimandrite.  He next went to St. Petersburg where he became a member of the Educational Committee of the Holy Synod, senior censor of the Theological Censorship Committee, and a member of the St. Petersburg Diocesan Committee.

He held these posts until 1917 when the Holy Synod was dismissed whereupon he lived his monastic life in Holy Trinity-St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra. He soon moved to Moscow where he was dean and sacristan at the Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles in the Kremlin until it was closed in 1918. From 1918 to 1922  he co-served with Patriarch Tikhon at the Holy Trinity Patriarchal Podvorye at Samotyoka, St. Sergius Church (Patriarch’s chapel) until it was seized by the Renovationists in 1922.

Archimandrite Neophytus’ first arrest, as someone close to Patriarch Tikhon, was on May 5, 1922. He was sentenced by the Commission of the NKVD for the administration of deportation on November 25, 1922. He was accused of taking “part in the anti-Soviet activity of Patriarch Tikhon” and sentenced, according to statute 60 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, to three years of exile in the Zyiryan territory. In the verdict, written by Tuchkov, it is said,

The case of Osipov, N.A. was opened in relation to the case of Patriarch Tikhon, Osipov suspected in taking part in the counter-revolutionary activities of the latter. Although no  concrete evidence was presented by the investigation which could accuse him, still, taking into account his intimacy with Tikhon as his personal secretary and a member of the Educational Committee of the Synod, which together with Tikhon was definitely conducting counter-revolutionary policy, I consider the further presence of Osipov in Moscow, from a political point of view, unacceptable and, therefore, I would suggest that Citizen Osipov Nikolai Alexandrovich be sent, through administrative channels, to the Zyiryansk District for a period of one (1) year with the necessity to register in the local department of the GPU. The investigation should close his case, joining it to the present case of Tikhon.

During the investigation (May-December 1922), Archimandrite Neophytus was held in the Tagansk prison in Moscow. He was in exile in the village of Ust-Vyim in the Komi (Zyiryan) District. In August 1925, Archimandrite Neophytus appealed to E.P. Peshkova at the Political Red Cross with a request for material aid and shortly received it. On August 24, 1925, he wrote the following to E.P. Peshkova, “I ask you to receive my gratitude for your service of mercy in exceptionally difficulty conditions, gratitude to benefactors who consider church freedom necessary for freedom of society, those benefactors who don’t consider exile to be convincing proof that we don’t have persecution and arrests. Sent “as an archimandrite and secretary of Patriarch Tikhon,” Archimandrite Neophytus Osipov

After his release from exile, he returned to Moscow and lived from 1925 to April 29, 1927, at 28-33 Trubnaya Street. Not being in aggreement with Metropolitan Sergei (Stragorodskii) he departed from him and later joined with the Josaphites. After returning from exile he didn’t serve; he occupied himself with “the study of the Psalter and works” (as he said at an interrogation).

On September 26, 1927, Archimandrite Neophytus was arrested and accused for “distributing among church goers documents recommending for the Church to continue anti-Soviet politics.” At the interrogation he said, “I can’t name Church works with an opinion about the current Church events… I don’t remember where but I read the Solovetsky declaration. I agree with it because it doesn’t teach against the support of the state with one’s work and prayers and doesn’t demand  anything not consistent with Orthodox truth.”

On January 6, 1928, he was sentenced by a Special Session of the board of the Joint State Political Directorate under statute 58-10 part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to three years in exile through a representation of the Joint State Political Directorate in Siberia. At the same, time due to an amnestry of June 11, 1927, the sentence was reduced to one quarter of the time.

This time he was exiled for a year to the Novosibirsk region after which he was immediately exiled again on November 23, 1929, under statute 58-10 part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to three years in exile without the right to live in six points of the country with the requirement to register at the place of residence.

After the additional sentencing he was sent through many different prisons and ended up at Mariinskii labor camp in the Kemerovo District. In all he was in exile from 1927 to 1934.

He next returned to Moscow where he was arrested on April 10, 1934, and sentenced to five years in a labor camp under statute 58-10 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Socialists Federative Socialist Republic by a Special Session of the board of the Joint State Political Directorate on June 14, 1935, for “participation in a counter-revolutionary group.”

Sent to the Antibes camp in the Novosibirsk District, Archimandrite Neophytus worked as an orderly, director of storage, statistician, and then in common labor from July 13, 1935, to October 10, 1937, when he was arrested.

The document given by the supervisor of the camp said that, “Nikolai Alexandrovich Osipov…during his time in Antibas camp of NKVD Siblag [Siberian camps] actively took part in a counter-revolutionary group headed by the former professor of the agricultural department, Terekhin, and personally corresponded with him, actively encouraged counter-revolutionary agitation among the inmates. At the end of August, Osipov said to the prisoners, ‘outside they’re arresting people in large numbers accusing them for no reason according to statute 58 and sending them to camp.’ In September he also said to the prisoners, ‘that outside there is nothing in the stores, unlike the abundance we used to have.’ In addition he conducted religious services while working with the crew which distracted the prisoners from work and was persuading them in the truth of religion during the intense time of harvesting work.”

At the only interrogation which was on October 11, 1937, Archimandrite Neophytus categorically denied any participation in counter-revolutionary activity although he didn’t deny his being acquainted with Terekhin, which he met in the camp. The words ascribed to him he heard from someone else but didn’t see anything special in them as all of the prisoners waited hope for release but there was no ground for this. In the presented accusations he did not admit guilt. During the investigation, Archimandrite Neophytus, already a feeble old man was kept in an isolation cell. During a review of the case in 1984 no guilt of the accused besides “a common, everyday conversation” was proved, therefore the accusation “in the encouragement of anti-Soviet agitation and participation in anti-Soviet agitation can’t be considered as having ground.”

On October 28, 1937, he was convicted by a troika of the primary NKVD of the Novosibirsk Region with the accusation that, “while in camp he became a member of a counter-revolution group… favored the activities of the latter and at the same time conducted counter-revolutionary activities among the inmates… performed religious services, openly preached religious views.” Under statute 58-10 and 58-11 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Socialist federative Socialist Republic he was sentenced to capital punishment – execution by shooting in the case named “case of Archimandrite Neophytus (Osipov) and Terekhin M. A. 1937.”

On November 3, 1937, Archimandrite Neophytus was executed at the Mariinskii camp in the Novosibirsk District. His place of burial is unknown (according to the words of Archimandrite Sergei (Gavrilov), a cousin of Archimandrite Neophytus)

Archimandrite Neophytus was rehabilitated on December 21, 1984, by the Presidium of the Kemerovo District Court.