On the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, the holy Church brings us to the threshold of its grace-filled life. “May all humanity be silent…” There is something greater here. There is something here which the human mind cannot comprehend, accept, or encompass within its narrow limits.
The last great sacrifice has been offered. The feat of sacrificial love has revealed to the world the boundless expanses of Fatherly goodwill.
“Ye are my friends… Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you,” – said the Lord in His farewell talk with His disciples (John 15:14-15).
And further: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit, when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12-13).
And now this day of the coming of the Spirit of Truth, the day of the Divine Comforter’s meeting with the human soul that is hungering and thirsting for comfort, is triumphantly celebrated by the holy Church.
The apostles were in a chamber on Mount Zion… “And there came a sound as of a rushing mighty wind,” testifies the church canticle. The Spirit of Truth and Divine Comfort descended upon the heads of Christ’s disciples in the form of fiery tongues. The human soul, which is Christian by nature, finally found that source of living water for which it yearned, to which it aspired, and which it had been unable to find.
“Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity,” – became the prayer of the liberated soul.
“The acquisition of God’s Holy Spirit” – such, in the definition of St. Seraphim of Sarov, is the ideal of a Christian’s life on earth.
Prayer, vigilance, fasting, charity – all of these are only means toward acquiring the divine fullness of existence, toward preparing the soul to meet the Comforter.
But there are too many barriers between us and the spiritual world, brethren, not only to acquire, but sometimes just to experience the joy of holiness. The world has become steeped in vanity… It has given itself over too much to worldly joys and sorrows, which have smothered the words of eternal life in it.
And thus on the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, the holy Church reminds us of the comfort that we have forgotten, summons us to aspire toward the wealth of spirit that we have lost, to understand the world and all its falsehood.
It calls us to aspire toward God and His truth. Beyond the bounds of our ordinary world we see opening up before us a world of Christ’s grace. The path between these two worlds is difficult and thorny.
But only there, in the realm of Christ’s grace, lies the true homeland of each one of us.
O Lord, Who didst send down Thy Most-holy Spirit at the third hour upon Thine apostles, take Him not from us, O Good One, but renew Him in us who pray unto Thee.
(Reprinted from “Orthodox Russia, No. 16, 2007)
THE HOLY PENTECOST – BIRTHDAY OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
At the Mystic Supper, when the apostles grieved over their forthcoming parting with their Divine Teacher, He offered them a comforting promise: “I shall not abandon you”… “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16). “He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).
And this promise the Lord fulfilled 10 days after His ascension, on the 50th day after His glorious Resurrection from the dead. The promised Comforter, the Holy Spirit, descended upon the apostles, and from this moment there appeared on earth the “Kingdom of God come in power,” of which the Lord spoke many times before, – the Church of Christ, which is nothing less than a treasury of grace of the Holy Spirit Who continuously resides in it. This is why the Holy Fathers often call the day of the Pentecost – the birthday of the Church of Christ, the establishment of which Christ had promised during His life on earth, saying: “I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
Why is the Church needed? The Church is like a ship, which carries us to the quiet harbor of an eternal life of bliss, saving us from drowning in the tempestuous waves of the sea of life and steered by a wondrous and most-wise Helmsman – the Holy Spirit. The Church of Christ is the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God invariably resides in the true Church of Christ and spiritualizes it, filling the souls of all the faithful.
This is why the day of the Pentecost, which is called the final and concluding feast among all the other Christian holidays, is so great and glorious. Great and glorious is the feast of Christ’s Nativity, incomparable is the glory of the “feast of feasts and celebration of celebrations” of the most-glorious Resurrection of Christ, but neither the one nor the other would have been of benefit to us, had not the Holy Spirit descended on the day of the Pentecost. On this day, the descent of the Holy Spirit concluded God’s entire majestic project of the salvation of fallen mankind from sin, damnation, and death.
And all three Persons of the Most-holy Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, – took part in this affair. Therefore, on this day we not only celebrate the Holy Spirit, Whose descent is commemorated, but likewise the entire Trinity – One-in-essence and Indivisible, and this feast is usually called Trinity Day. “For that which God the Father was pleased to grant, that which the Son of God executed, the Holy Spirit descended to accord to the faithful,” – teaches us our native theologian, St. Theophanus the Recluse.
According to St. John Chrysostome, on the day of the Pentecost “we attained the very heights of blessing, acquired the very fruit of the Lord’s promise… Through the Holy Spirit we are freed of enslavement, we are summoned to freedom, we are accorded the status of sons, we are newly recreated, we shed the heavy and foul burden of sins, through the Holy Spirit we acquire priests, we are granted hosts of teachers; from this source issue both the gifts of revelation and the granting of healing; and it is from this source that the Church vests itself in all that usually adorns it.”
For this reason, whoever wishes to make use of the grace-filled resources that are requisite for our spiritual renaissance, – for in this lies the essence of Christianity: to become a new creation, – must belong to the Church, but to the genuine Church of course, and not to some organization created by men and simply calling itself a “church,” of which there are many now. Without the grace of God that is granted only within the true Church, spiritual regeneration is impossible, and so is eternal salvation.
Christ our Saviour said clearly: “I will build My Church,” and not “churches.” Consequently, He established the one Church and not many different churches. For this reason it seems strange to hear the words of contemporary prominent personages, who call themselves Christian, that the existence of different “churches” – Catholic, Protestant, and others, – is a positive thing, for each person can choose for himself a church “to his own taste,” whichever one he likes, whichever one suits him best. Even stranger are the words of church liberals, developing the idea that Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism are one and the same Christianity, only “from different points of view.”
Such an opinion, of course, radically contradicts the teaching of the Word of God, which clearly says: “That all may be one” (John 17:11); “One Lord, one faith” (Eph. 4:5); “Be ye of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:2). This appeal to Christians to be of one accord and one mind in the Church runs like a thread through the entire Holy Writ, for what “church” can there be where each person thinks and feels “according to his own taste”! The Church is the “pillar and ground of Truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), and since there is only one Truth, there can also be only one true Church.
It is to this one true Church, established by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and consolidated by His holy apostles, that we must belong if we wish to inherit eternal salvation. However, we must belong to it not formally, but with all our soul, with all our inner being: we must live in the Church, earnestly fulfilling all its instructions and accepting its grace-filled sacraments, which were instituted for our spiritual purification and regeneration, and for the renewal of our sinful and fallen human nature.
The one true Church to which we must belong and in which we must live for our salvation is the Orthodox Church, which has sacredly and indestructibly retained for almost 20 centuries the dogmatic and moral teaching of the Gospel and the entire canonical structure based upon the Gospel teaching. The fact that this is so is confirmed precisely by the accusations that are thrown at this Church, that it has supposedly become “petrified,” that it “opposes progress,” that it “does not wish to go along with the times.” All these accusations actually comprise the greatest praise for it as the one true Church, immutable guardian of all that was taught by Christ and His disciples, His holy apostles.
But in our times, especially after the fall of Orthodox Russia, destroyed by the enemies of Christianity, the terrifying symptoms of apostasy, i.e. abandonment of the true faith, have appeared also in the Orthodox Church. These include all manner of willfulness, freethinking, rationalism, liberalism, and modernism, which have finally led autonomous Orthodox churches to so-called “ecumenism,” whose objective is to “unite” all religions and all church branches without their internal unification, without that accord and unity of mind, to which the Word of God summons us.
That is not unity in God, but in someone else, who must tightly unite everyone in complete subordination to himself. Thus will Christ’s adversary – the Antichrist – aspire to unite everyone in subordination to himself, as had been foretold by the Holy Fathers of the first centuries of Christianity.
And now intense work is being done to corrupt the Orthodox Church from the inside, since it is the only true Church standing in the path of the Antichrist and hindering his attainment of his plans. Wherever dogmas waver, wherever the moral teaching of the Gospel and the Church’s canonical system that is built upon it is subverted, there we clearly see the work of the servants of the coming Antichrist, no matter what they call themselves or how they dress themselves up.
The “gates of hell” shall not prevail against the Church, but they have prevailed and are fully capable of further prevailing against many who believe themselves to be pillars of the Church, as witnessed by Church history.
“See then that ye walk circumspectly!” – the Word of God warned all Christians even back in apostolic times (Eph. 5:15). Should we not be even more obliged to remember and to constantly remind everyone of this apostolic warning in our own times, which have now become more “wicked” than ever before?
Let us earnestly beseech the Most-holy Trinity to have mercy upon us and to deliver us from the wickedness of our times, which has already become second nature to many people. And let us preserve our unity with the true Church of Christ, which is free of all guile, and entreat the good Comforter: “Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity!...”
In our present times, as we experience widespread corruption of all facets of modern life, a mockery of holiness, and constant sorrow from the prevalence of iniquity, we are especially in need of the grace-filled aid and comfort of the Holy Spirit, Who is sent to us by the providence of the Most-holy Trinity in the true Church of Christ.
O Holy Trinity, glory to Thee!
What we must do in order for the Holy Spirit to come and dwell in us
“O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of truth, come and dwell in us.”
Thus we pray today, as we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles: thus also prayed the apostles, as they awaited the Comforter promised to them from the Heavenly Father. And it was not in vain that they appealed to Him. When all the apostles, as the writer of their acts describes, were together and “with one accord” on the day of the Pentecost, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting, and there appeared unto them tongues like as of fire, and sat upon each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
In such a wondrous manner did the Holy Spirit mark His descent upon Christ’s apostles! But did He hear our appeal? Soon we will finish our prayers, and we will leave the church, but we have not yet seen any tongues of fire, nor heard any sounds from heaven… However, the faithful have no need of such an amazing miracle as the one manifested by the Holy Spirit upon the apostles for the sake of persuading unbelievers. For us it would be enough if, without any sound or fiery tongues, He would touch us with a spark of His grace and engender within our hearts that spiritual illumination, that ardent love for God, and that fiery aspiration towards holiness which accompanies the presence of God’s Spirit in man.
And in order for Him, the Heavenly King, to be willing to come and dwell in us, we must do that which people usually do when they wish to invite an honored guest. In this case, as we know, they meticulously put in order their home, in which they intend to welcome this guest, put on their best clothes and various adornments, go out to meet the expected guest, and cordially invite him to come in. This is what we should be doing now, though not physically, but spiritually.
Firstly, in inviting the Holy Spirit, we must prepare ourselves as a worthy abode for Him, and for this we must assiduously cleanse ourselves, as the apostle commands, of all impurity of flesh and spirit, i.e. of all sins of the flesh and heart. Our sins are so displeasing to the Holy Spirit, that not only can He not look upon them, but He distances Himself completely from those people who are tainted with them. This is confirmed by the prophet, who says to the Jews: “Your sins have hid His [God’s] face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). Therefore, if we wish for the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, we must completely cleanse ourselves of our sins. How do we do it? We must sincerely confess our sins before God, calling out like the publican: “O God, have mercy upon us, sinners,” and assiduously guard ourselves against these sins. By means of such confession we will sweep our sins out of our hearts, like some dirt from a house, and will make ourselves a pure abode for the Holy Spirit.
However, to welcome the Holy Spirit in a worthy manner, it is not enough to cleanse ourselves of our sins, but we must also adorn ourselves with virtue, we must put on the “new man,” created by God in truth and in the image of truth, and ready for all good works. This is necessary not only for the Holy Spirit, Who loves all that is pure and good, to come and dwell in us more willingly, but also for Him not to become angered and depart from us if we appear before Him in tatters, i.e. the clothes of sin, or if we appear naked, i.e. unadorned with good deeds. Remember how the Lord acted in the Gospel parable towards the man who dared come to His wedding feast without decent wedding garments? He commanded His servants to bind the impure one and thrown him out into outer darkness (Matt. 22:11-13). So will He act towards all those who are not concerned with adorning themselves with Christian virtues, which are like the threads that make up the garments in which the Lord wishes to see us dressed. Therefore, together with the apostle, I will tell you to “put on… mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering” and other Christian virtues, “and above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Col, 3:12, 14).
Having become adorned in such fashion, we must prepare ourselves for receiving the Holy Spirit and ardently entreat Him to be willing to come and dwell in us. How should we entreat Him, so that He would come and dwell in us?
Firstly, we must pray for His descent with unshakeable faith in that God the Father, for the sake of His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and out of His love for mankind will send us His Holy Spirit for our sanctification and strengthening in the attainment of salvation; only with such a faith would we be able to receive the promise, while without such faith it is impossible to please God and, consequently, be worthy of grace-filled contact with Him.
Secondly, we must pray with unshakeable hope in that the Holy Spirit, being good and loving mankind, will hear our prayer to Him and will come and dwell in us, for ”hope maketh not ashamed” (Rom. 5:5).
And finally, we must call upon the Holy Spirit with sincere love for the Son of God, our Saviour, through Whom the Spirit is sent to the faithful: “Whoever love Me, will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23), and wherever God the Father is, there His Spirit is also. In short, if we wish the Holy Spirit to come and dwell in us, we must call upon Him with faith, hope, and love: faith opens for him the way into our hearts, hope leads Him into them, while love receives Him and unites Him with us in such a way, that we become one in spirit with the Lord.
Bearing this in mind, let us silently confess our sins before the Holy Spirit, let us give Him our promise to become more virtuous, and let us earnestly appeal to Him with faith, hope, and love. “O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of truth, come and dwell in us!” He, the Most-good, will hear our prayer, will come and dwell in us, and will illuminate our hearts with His grace. Amen.
THE CONTEMPORARY “GIFT OF TONGUES”
In the middle of the 20th century there arose in the United States the so-called “charismatic” movement (from the Greek word “charis” – grace), whose goal was to revive in contemporary society the gifts of grace that had been received by the apostles on the day of the Pentecost and, in particular, the “gift of tongues” – the unexpectedly acquired ability to speak other languages. This movement attracted a number of Baptist and Methodist churches. It was only to be expected that the “charismatic” movement would originate in a Protestant environment, since Protestantism, not possessing the apostolic succession of priesthood, lacks the grace-filled power of the holy sacraments in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit are proffered. Sectarian prayer meetings, lacking grace, cannot give a Christian the spiritual satisfaction he needs.
The charismatic movement, promising the infusion of a fresh stream of spirituality into the life of the Protestant churches, became quite popular, and in various parts of the United States there soon began to arise groups of “Pentecostals.” This movement also affected several more traditionally-oriented churches. Furthermore, Pentecostal communities have begun to appear fairly recently in Europe and in Russia.
The Pentecostals and similar “charismatics” attempt to induce in themselves, by artificial (actually shamanistic) methods, the ability to speak a new tongue, which they value tremendously and of which they are extremely proud. However, what they achieve is something quite bizarre, which bears no relation whatsoever to the manifestation of the gifts of grace in apostolic times.
The miraculous and genuine gift of tongues received by the apostles on the day the Holy Spirit descended upon them is described in the opening chapters of the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Apostle Paul writes about the essence and the purpose of this gift of tongues in chapters 12-14 of his epistle to the Corinthians. As we have said earlier, the gift of tongues was necessary to the apostles for a successful spreading of the Gospel. Having received the ability to speak the language of one people or another, the apostles could preach to these peoples without spending time on learning the requisite languages, which helped spread Christ’s Church quickly and widely. As we know from subsequent church history, this gift was meant to exist only briefly. As local Christian preachers with an excellent knowledge of their native tongue began to appear in various countries, the need for a supernatural gift of tongues began to diminish. Thus, by the time of Irineus of Lyon, in the middle of the 3rd century, the gift of tongues is mentioned as a rare occurrence.
Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians leads us to conclude that the gift of tongues was more widespread in this particular church than in the others. At that time the gift of tongues was one of the spiritual endowments which some of the Christians received after baptism and the placement of the apostles’ hands upon them. Not all the Christians of Corinth knew how to handle this gift of tongues properly, and Apostle Paul warns them against abusing it. The problem was that during prayer meetings the Corinthian Christians began speaking in different languages when there was no need for it. They apparently did this out of vanity, in order to show off in front of one other. Apostle Paul explains that the gift of tongues is needed not for believers, but for unbelievers, in order to attract them to the faith.
Moreover, the gift of tongues also had a negative effect on prayer meetings when it was used inappropriately. During a service, for example, when several people simultaneously began to speak in different languages that were incomprehensible to the majority of those present, this created a great deal of noise and led to a loss of the proper mood for prayer. In order to avoid the inappropriate use of the miraculously received gift of speaking new languages, Apostle Paul explains to the Corinthians that the gift of tongues is the very least gift in a row of other spiritual endowments that are more necessary to the individual. The Corinthian Christians would do better if instead of the gift of tongues they were to ask God to enrich them with faith, abstinence, patience, love, wisdom, and other requisite moral gifts.
Comparing the gift of tongues in apostolic times to modern “tongue-gabbing,” one must acknowledge an essential difference between them. In apostolic times Christians received the ability to speak in a genuine language that was in existence at that time. This was normal, articulate human speech, such as a preacher would need. In contrast to the genuine gift of tongues in apostolic times, the contemporary “speaking in tongues” practiced by the Pentecostals is simply a jumble of incoherent and meaningless sounds, taking the form of either jabbering or frenzied shouting. This fact is admitted by the Pentecostals themselves; however, they explain it away by saying that it is supposedly the language of the denizens of Paradise! Nevertheless, it is impossible to accept such meaningless sounds as a miracle from God. They are rather the result of nervous stimulation, a falling into trance, and hallucinations strongly suggestive of demonic possession. Therefore, these sectarians exhibit their extreme spiritual ignorance and even blaspheme when they ascribe an artificially induced exaltation and unintelligible sounds to God’s inspiration.
In general, a tendency towards all sorts of strong sensations is characteristic of modern society, which is attracted to wild music that incites malevolent and erotic feelings, – a society which justifies sexual deviation, abuses stimulant substances and narcotics, is attracted to films that are full of horrible crimes and all kinds of demonic monsters. All these perversions are symptoms of modern society’s illness.
Similarly, the Christians’ search for rapture and ecstasy in prayer is a manifestation of passion and spiritual pride. The charismatics substitute the genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit with artificially-induced emotional sensations. Ignoring the spiritual experience amassed by Christianity over the course of nearly 2,000 years and recorded in the writings of the Holy Fathers, discarding the priesthood and the sacraments that had been established by God Himself, contemporary sectarians try to establish within themselves a state of grace by means of all kinds of dubious and dangerous techniques. They end up with self-deception and prelest, against which all the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church issue warnings. Such inner states bear no relation to Christianity whatsoever, and they were well-known both to ancient pagans and to contemporary Hindus.
Orthodox Christians must absolutely keep away from such perversions of religious feeling. They have access to genuine treasures of grace in the sacraments of the Church, in its holy services, and in their own sincere prayers. In communing with God one must not seek rapture and strong sensations, but rather the renewal of one’s sinful soul. Such renewal comes through humility, repentance and self-correction. And while the Christian is renewing his soul, he will receive the true grace of God, which will bring him heavenly peace and pure joy, in comparison with which all earthly rapture seems cheap and pitiful.
“SURROUNDED BY TREASON, AND COWARDICE, AND LIES”
100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution
Our children and grandchildren will be totally unable to imagine the Russia in which we once lived, which we did not appreciate, did not understand, – all that might, complexity, wealth, happiness…
The February Revolution
Despite the stable situation at the fronts, in February 1917 practically all of Petrograd awaited a quick revolution. The British historian Bernard Pierce formulated this contradiction with the following words: “The front was healthy, while the rear had rotted through.” Difficulties with bread supplies to Petrograd, caused by the disruption of the cargo transport schedule due to snowdrifts, and rumors of an impending introduction of bread lines led to its disappearance, which had never happened before in the capital. The population, including the lower classes, was used to Petrograd being excellently supplied with provisions. Queues immediately lined up at the bread stores. Thus local disorders of a non-political nature arose on the basis of a deficit of a single product – bread. Actually not only was there no hunger, but there was even no genuine shortage of bread in Petrograd in those days, while at many factories the management itself took care of food supplies, and there were certainly no bread lines there; moreover, the garrison did not experience any shortage of bread whatsoever. According to several researchers, the role of direct organizer of the blockade of bread deliveries belongs to Lomonosov, an active participant in the conspiracy against Tsar Nicholas II and one of the directors of the Ministry of Transportation, who together with railway engineer Bublikov took over control of the railway to Petrograd and ordered the royal train, which had left the Stavka (General Headquarters) for Tsarskoye Selo, to be stopped. The Stock Market Journal reported on 21 February that all bread shops and grocery stores on the Petrograd side were being vandalized, and this destruction subsequently spread all over the city. Crowds surrounded the bakeries and bread shops, and with cries of “bread, bread” moved through the streets.
The 1917 Revolution in Russia
A.I. Guchkov, a smart and capable man, was the author and organizer of the coup-d’état whose purpose was to force Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate. Being an extremely ambitious Russian politician and leader of the “Union of 17 October” Party, Guchkov, bearing a strong grudge against the Tsar, which by 1916 had turned into burning hatred, was ready to unite with any force in his attempt to overthrow the Tsar. After the February 1917 revolution and the Tsar’s abdication, two organs of power emerged in Russia simultaneously: the Workers’ and Military Deputies Councils and the Provisional Government. “The Russians believe that freedom consists of treating things lightly, demanding double salaries, demonstrating in the streets, and voting for resolutions at public meetings,” – wrote the British Ambassador in Petrograd Buchanan. The Bolshevik leaders, who had returned from exile and had become members of the Petrograd Council together with the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, were inclined towards cooperating with the Provisional Government. Lenin, however, insisted from the very beginning on an immediate break with the Provisional Government, in order to actively prepare for a transfer to the “proletarian” stage of the revolution and the termination of the Imperialist war. The tactics of the struggle drawn up by Lenin in his “April theses” presupposed the elimination of the Provisional Government. During the 3-5 July 1917 demonstrations, the Provisional Government issued an order for Lenin’s arrest. A new coalition Provisional Government was formed, headed by Kerensky and composed primarily of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. But Lenin, confirming his unacceptance of a parliamentary republic and the democratic process, began preparing an armed uprising by agitating among the workers and peasants. As a result of the October Revolution of 1917 the Provisional Government was overthrown.
Conspiracies against Tsar Nicholas II
Professor Richard Pipes, the director of the Russian Studies Research Center at Harvard University, wrote: “By the end of 1916 all political parties and groups united in opposing the monarchy. However, this was their only point of contact – in everything else they differed absolutely. In their opinion, it was not the regime itself that was to blame for the Russian crisis, but the people in power, specifically the German Empress and Rasputin. And it was believed that it was enough to remove these latter from the political arena for everything to go well. After Rasputin’s elimination plans began to emerge for a forceful removal of Tsar Nicholas II himself from the throne, with his abdication in favor of one of the Grand Dukes, modeled on 18th century coups-d’état. The head of the Octobrist Party Guchkov said that in the fall of 1916 “the idea of a coup-d’état was born, as a result of which the Tsar would be forced to abdicate and pass on the throne to a legal successor.” Within this framework the plan came together very quickly. On 9 February 1917 a meeting of the leaders of oppositionary Duma factions took place in the cabinet of the chairman of the 4th State Duma Rodzianko. According to plans made at this meeting, the coup-d’état was due to take place no later than April 1917, because an offensive coordinated with the Entente allies was planned for April, which would have inevitably caused an upsurge of patriotism and would have made the coup-d’état impossible. The conspirators’ plan was simple (and was realized on 1 March): during the Tsar’s next trip to the Stavka in Mogilev to try to detain the royal train, arrest the Tsar, and force him to abdicate. Tsar Nicholas II was informed of the conspiracies against him back in the fall of 1916, but he remarked: “The Empress and I know that we are in the hands of God. May His will be done!”
Prince N. Zhevakhov, summing up the events that occurred at the end of February/beginning of March 1917, wrote: “It was not the revolution which caused the abdication, but on the contrary, the act of abdication torn from the Tsar by force caused the revolution. Prior to the Tsar’s abdication it was not a revolution, but a soldiers’ rebellion.” The Army leadership, headed by the chief of staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief General Alekseyev and by the commanders of the fronts and the fleets, decided that they had no means of suppressing the revolution. By insisting on the abdication the highest military leaders, Generals Alekseyev, Ruzsky, Brusilov, Sakharov, and Grand Duke Nikolay Nikolayevich, burned their bridges behind them – according to Russian laws their demand itself was the greatest of crimes and merited corresponding capital punishment in the event of their mutiny’s lack of success. Thus the betrayal which made Emperor Nicholas II’s departure inevitable was already committed. “Surrounded by treason, and cowardice, and lies,” – wrote the Tsar in his diary, characterizing with the greatest accuracy this most vile coup-d’état.
According to the historian Oldenburg, “it is too late to guess whether the Tsar could not have abdicated. With the position taken by Ruzsky and Alekseyev, the possibility of resistance was excluded: none of the Tsar’s orders were transmitted, nor were telegrams from his loyal subjects passed on to him.” After his presumed successor, the Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich, also refused to take the throne, the State Duma took the country under its control, forming the Provisional Government. With the formation of the Councils on a par with the Provisional Government, there began a period of diarchy. The Bolsheviks formed detachments of armed workers (the Red Guard) and, owing to slogans which appealed to the popular masses, gained considerable popularity, primarily in Petrograd, Moscow, in major industrial cities, in the Baltic Fleet, and in the troops of the Northern and Western fronts. And in October the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee, headed by Trotsky and Lenin, overthrew the Provisional Government and by the summer of 1918 formed a single-party Bolshevik government.
Excerpted from the Martianoff calendar for 2017
see beginning here
All misfortunes and disasters occur by the will of God
If God is not and cannot be the source of our moral fall (which alone is genuine evil), then it is quite true that all misfortunes occurring from secondary causes, be they rational or irrational, and occurring no matter how, all occur by the will of God, are sent by His mighty hand, at His discretion, and by His providence. Often God’s judgment uses iniquitous kings and evil princes as His tools for teaching patience to the righteous and chastising the unrighteous for their crimes and misdeeds. Here is an example: through the prophet Isaiah God threatens the depraved Israeli people with destruction and with the devastation of Palestine through the Assyrians, clearly demonstrating that it is not the will of the Assyrian king, but rather His holy will that is being fulfilled by the Assyrians. God punishes the Israelis with the divine instrument of His wrath and indignation at their iniquities and, consequently, attributes this punishment to Himself. We should regard in equal manner all the other righteous chastisements that are allowed by God for our misdeeds. During the siege of Jerusalem, the Roman Emperor Titus, personally walking around the walls and seeing the ditches filled with corpses, sighed heavily, and raising his eyes and hands to heaven, cried out: “Merciful God! This is not my doing!”
We are asked: if it is true that all misfortunes are sent to us by the will of God, then are we not trying to withstand His holy will in vain? Is it not useless for us to take medicines when we are ill? Why should we lead out armed hosts against an attacking enemy? Here is my reply to the inquirers: it is clear that destructive wars and other woes happen not without God’s will, but it does not follow that we should not arm ourselves against the enemy or not try to treat our illnesses, regarding such actions as opposition to the will of God. For example, if we fall prey to some illness, there is no doubt that such was God’s will. However, the sick person does not know God’s intention in regard to the duration of his illness, and for this reason he is not forbidden to use various medicinal means to return to health or at least to ease the illness. And only if the continuous use of many medications does not result in a cure, the sick person may be sure that such is God’s will for him to endure a protracted illness. Similarly, if a fire starts up and cannot be extinguished by the combined efforts of the people and the fire brigade, then it is clear that God’s judgment has decided not only to have the building burned, but to have it burn down completely, in order to test the patience of God’s friends or to punish His enemies. We should look upon all other events in our life in a similar manner.
“Look, beloved brethren, – instructs us the blessed Augustine, – never say: this has been done to me by the devil, or this misfortune befell me through the perfidious enemy, but attribute to God all that happens to you, both good and bad, knowing that the devil cannot do anything to you if the Mighty God, Who has power over life and death, does not allow him to do something to you for your chastisement or rectification. God allows punishment for the iniquitous, who consciously act against their conscience, openly reject truth, etc., while rectification is allowed for sons who have sinned – ‘for the Lord scourgeth every son whom He receiveth’ (Hebrews 12:6). And you, too, should not expect to remain without punishment, unless you wish to be deprived of the heavenly inheritance.”
When King David was escaping from his insubordinate son Absalom, who had rebelled against him, a certain Semeus from the clan of King Saul ran out in front of David and began reviling Him most cruelty for Saul’s death. Seeing such vilification of David, his military commanders wanted to kill Semeus, but the king, who perceived God’s will in this revilement of himself, said to his attendants: “Leave him be, let him abuse me, for the Lord had commanded him to revile David.” Semeus naturally sinned grievously in cursing David, because although God used him as a tool of revilement, He was not the cause of Semeus’ vile will; He only wisely used it to punish David. Thus each one of us should also look upon the attacks and curses of evil people upon us in a manner like unto David, for the merciful God uses their willfulness to either instruct the innocent or chastise the guilty.
In Constantinople the Greek Queen Irene, who had been dethroned by a despicable slave, turned to God with the following words: “I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast put me, Thy unworthy servant, on the royal throne; but since Thou hast also allowed me to be deprived of my throne, I believe it to be in consequence of my sins; may Thy will be done in me! In all bad and good things may the name of the Lord be blessed.” It is true that no one can harm us, except in that in which we harm ourselves. For this reason the blessed Augustine rightly said: “Believe in the Lord God without any reservation and give yourself over to Him completely: then He will not reject you and will not allow any harm to come to you.” Everyone should know this precept and firmly keep the following in mind: nothing harmful can happen to us without the will or allowance of God: neither the devil, nor any individual can harm us if God does not allow it. We should firmly believe that even though the direst misfortunes befall us by God’s command, they are sent from the most merciful Father for our benefit, for our instruction or rectification, for the sake of our misdeeds and sins. Consequently, no one else, except we ourselves, can harm us.
God allows misfortunes and sins for the good of man
Since neither the devil, nor any person can do evil to another without God’s allowance of it, let us examine the following: what God allows, how He allows it, and for what reason does this allowance come about?
We must differentiate between two kinds of allowed evils. The first kind of evil, comprising various misfortunes, burdens, illnesses, insults or dishonor (impoverishment, imprisonment, banishment, exile), death – all of this cannot even be called evil in the strict sense of the word, but only a bitter medicine sent to us by God for our spiritual healing. The second kind of evil, in the exact meaning of the word, is represented by our sins, our transgression of God’s commandments. God allows the first kind of evil in accordance with His wishes, or to punish the wicked, or as a means of rectification for faithful sons and daughters. Concerning the second kind of evil, i.e. sins, one cannot say that God wishes them to be committed, but only tolerates them. Everything that really exists in the world, is present in it by the wish and word of God, by Whose will “all things were made, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).
Sin, however, is not something real, but only an illusory antithesis to genuine being. Sin exists as a result of the imperfection, deceit, and guile of the rational and free, but insubordinate beings created by God; for this reason sin originally occurred and continues to occur against the will of God and not from God, yet by His tolerance. The reason for the tolerance of sin is hidden for the time being within the mystery of God’s absolute and perfect rule over the world, or His Providence. God has absolute knowledge of the future, and He can easily not allow the occurrence of the sinning that is abominable to Him, but He tolerates it in order to produce good out of evil and justice out of injustice for the sake of teaching and rectifying people, so that they would see the consequences of sin both for the sinner and for those around him, and for society. This is what distinguishes God’s tolerance from human tolerance, which cannot by human means avert and curtail evil in its inception, even though the committing of it would be undesirable. On the contrary, in God we see both His power to prevent or curtail the execution of an evil intent, and at the same time we see His will, allowing one or another evil to be committed. This raises the following question: why does God wish to tolerate the committing of sin, or what is God’s motivation in allowing people to sin?
God’s infinite goodness would never have allowed such iniquities to exist on earth, were it not able to produce the greatest good from them and turn into salvation all that had been done with evil intent. God allowed the escalation of brotherly envy against the innocent Joseph, but allowed it for what good reason? – was it not to deliver from a death from hunger not only his parents, brothers, and relatives, but all of Egypt? God allowed the iniquitous Saul to continuously offend the meek David, but was it not for the benefit of David himself, whose descendant was Christ our Saviour? God allowed the unjustly accused prophet Daniel to be thrown into a den with frenzied lions, but for what? – in order to raise him and his friends to the pinnacle of glory and grandeur. But why should I speak of numerous instances in Old Testament history, when by God’s tolerance the envious high priests, Pharisees, and Jewish elders presented for crucifixion the Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, and this tolerance turned into salvation for all mankind. Thus, out of each instance of tolerance arise and become revealed to us the greatest riches of God’s glory and His benevolence to each individual and all mankind. Each instance reveals to us God’s goodness and mercy, His munificence, omnipotence, and majesty, His foresight and Providence. In each instance His supreme wisdom and truth enlighten us in ways unknown to us, and thus encourage many attentive people to return to the path of virtue and to multiply their laborious yet glorious spiritual feats.
O, how wondrously and majestically does Divine providence reveal itself in its daily tolerance! It is not difficult to produce good from good, but to turn evil into good is quite amazing. There is a saying that “anyone can be a helmsman on a calm sea.” It is not such a great matter to direct the ship towards harbor when the wind is favorable, the ship is strong, the sea is calm, the sailors know their business, and the harbor is already in view. But it is quite a different matter when a storm stirs up the sea, the ship is damaged, the waves pour noisily onto the deck and inside the ship, or when the night is dark and nothing can be seen, pirates surround the ship, the crew is small and poorly armed, and in spite of all, the captain has the ship under such masterful command, that he escapes danger without any damage – that is truly amazing, and in this case the actions of the ship’s captain have shown his wisdom and his ability to steer the ship. We see a similar situation in God’s rule over the world: some things which are allowed by God’s will and which seem to us not to lead to any good, God brings to the best possible end through His indescribable wisdom and truth. By tolerating illicit actions and harmful adventures, God sometimes turns malefactors into His honorable friends. By God’s Providence, which directs everything towards the best possible end, wicked intents against a person are often turned to the latter’s advantage; the attacks and insults made against someone often increase his inner strength. The evildoers’ greatest iniquities confirm many people in righteousness and virtue, and save them from perdition. Many people already seem to be completely immersed in the abyss of perdition, yet in reality it turns out that this is their way to salvation.
For Joseph his fetters and imprisonment served as a precursor to honors and the greatest glory; his brothers’ envy brought him greater benefit than the goodwill of the entire world; Saul’s malice procured for David the royal crown; the lions’ den led Daniel to greater glory and honor than that of earthly kings; from the cross Christ, together with the repentant thief, went straight into heaven, while from the Mount of Olives He ascended into heaven and sat on the right hand of God the Father.
In God’s allowance both good and evil wills work for God, and no matter their original intent, in the final analysis everything works towards the attainment of the best possible goals.
(To be continued)
LIVES OF THE SAINTS
On June 5th (May 23rd by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the venerable Saint Euphrosyne, Princess of Polotsk.
St. Euphrosyne, born Princess Predislava, was the daughter of Prince George Vseslavovich of Polotsk. At the age of 12 she secretly became a nun, and with the blessing of her ruling bishop, settled in Polotsk at the church of St. Sophia. There she spent time in prayer and the copying of holy books. Soon an angel appeared to her thrice, commanding her to found a nun’s convent, in which, by God’s will, she was destined to lead many to salvation. The venerable saint founded the convent of Christ the Saviour on a site belonging to the bishops of Polotsk, and many maidens gathered there. The saint also persuaded her sisters and many female relatives to take the veil. Upon reaching a venerable age, St. Euphrosyne made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she reposed on May 23, 1173 and was buried in the monastery of St. Theodosius in Jerusalem. In 1186 her holy relics were translated to the Kievan Caves monastery, and in 1911 they were translated from Kiev to Polotsk.
On June 24th (the 11th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the icon of the Mother of God “Mete it is” (“Axion esti” in Greek) or “Eleousa,” which is found on holy Mount Athos.
According to ancient tradition, in an area of the holy mountain near Kareia, there dwelled an elderly hermit with his young disciple. Rarely did they leave their monastic cell, but one evening the elder went to the Kareian cathedral to attend the all-night vigil, while his disciple remained at home. This was on June 11, 980. The youth was very pious, but did not possess any book-learning and could not sing spiritual hymns with any degree of proficiency; however, he greatly venerated the Mother of God and always sang simple but heartfelt hymns to Her. And this evening, too, remaining alone in the cell, he stood before an icon of the Heavenly Queen and sang a church song which he had memorized: “More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim.” The youth did not add any other words, but deeply sighed, feeling great joy in his heart from the glorification of the Mother of God. Suddenly a beautiful young man appeared before the young monk. They began conversing. “What are you doing?” – asked the stranger. “Oh, I am just singing the hymn ‘More honorable’!” – the young monk answered simply. “Sing then, and I will listen to you,” – said the guest. With great spiritual tenderness the humble monk began to sing the hymn which he had learned – “More honorable than the Cherubim.”
“You do not sing properly, brother, you do not sing as we do,” – remarked the stranger. – “We glorify the Mother of God somewhat differently.” “And how is that?” – asked the surprised monk. “Thusly,” – said the guest and sang: “’Mete it is, in truth, to bless Thee, Theotokos, Ever-blessed and All-chaste, and the Mother of our God’… and only then we add the words ‘More honorable’,” – said the wondrous guest.
The young monk asked the guest to write down such a beautiful song, so that he would not forget its words, but there was no paper or ink to be found in the cell. Then the stranger marked the words on a stone tablet, which became soft as wax. After that, enjoining the youth to make sure that from then on everyone would glorify the Mother of God in such a manner, the stranger disappeared like lightning. For a long time the astonished monk stood and looked at the stone tablet with the words written on it miraculously, and then began to memorize them. When the old hermit returned to his cell at dawn, he found his disciple singing the new and wondrous hymn.
“Where did you learn to sing thus?” – asked the elder in surprise. His disciple told him of all that had happened and showed him the miraculous stone. The amazed hermit stood and looked at the stone for a long time, reading the divine words and unable to take in the miracle. “Why did you not ask the stranger who he was and what was his name?” – the elder finally said. “Forgive me, father,” – replied the disciple. – “I forgot completely. I just remember that he called himself Gabriel.” “So you did not realize which Gabriel it was, who was with you in the cell?” – added the elder, smiling, and then, standing before the icon of the Mother of God, began singing together with his disciple the new and wondrous hymn to the Theotokos. On the same day the hermit gave a detailed report of the event to the entire council of the elders of Mount Athos, and as proof presented the stone tablet with the miraculously written words. The wondrous appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to the young Athonite monk was subsequently reported to the Emperor and the Patriarch. From that time, Patriarch Nicholas II of Constant-nople decreed that the angelic song “Mete it is” should be added to the “More honorable than the Cherubim.”
The icon, called “Eleousa” (“The Merciful”), before which the new hymn was first sung, was transferred to the main cathedral and named “Mete it is” (“Axion est”).
THE END TIMES
(We continue our presentation of various aspects of the vision of the end times. Following is an interesting article by Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago, a hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, written in 1959 and expressing hope in the fulfillment of the glorious prophecies concerning the resurrection of Russia before the end of the world.)
Every Russian, wherever he may be, – in the Fatherland that was seized by the godless Communists or on the Babylonian rivers of the great Russian diaspora, – cannot but ponder the destiny of Russia.
Our suffering homeland is undoubtedly experiencing the most responsible time in its history. Neither the fratricidal strife of the medieval period of principalities, nor the centuries under the evil Tatar yoke, nor the first Time of Troubles, nor even the invasion of Napoleon can be compared in the slightest degree with our terrible times.
In those times it was mainly the body of the nation that suffered, while now there is a struggle for the soul of our people. Satan has now openly come out against Christ and has chosen the wide open spaces of Russia as his battleground. This fearsome and intelligent spirit knows what he is doing. He understands quite well that in order to achieve victory over mankind, he must destroy his main adversary – the Russian people, who for such a long time have been known as “the God-bearing people.”
Thus, for forty long years Satan’s faithful servants – the godless Communists – have been trying to eradicate God from the soul of this people, to take Christ away from it. For forty long years the mighty and dreadful machine of the state apparatus, armed with the most modern technology, has been eradicating from the Russian soul all that is sacred and spiritual.
What can the Russian people expect of the future? Is there any hope of salvation?
“The Lord’s destinies are a great abyss!” – says the holy psalm-writer King David. However, armed with humble prayer and placing hope in God’s mercy, one can resolve to look into the misty distance of the Russian future.
Three paths seem to stretch out before Russia.
The first path, onto which the godless are pushing it, is a strengthening of Communism and the world revolution, with the establishment of an illusory paradise on earth without God.
The second path, which represents the dream of many Russian pro-Western liberals, is the gradual replacement of the Bolshevik dictatorship with a Western-style, for example American, capitalist democracy.
These two paths are purely human. But I believe there is another, third path, a unique and divine path for the Russian people. The purpose of this essay is to clarify the nature of this path.
The history and fate of each major people is always to a certain extent tied in with the history and fate of mankind. The best thing that mankind possesses is, undoubtedly, Christianity. For us, Christians, this is perfectly understandable. The Lord Christ became incarnate and appeared in the world with His wondrous teaching in order for it to become the legacy of all peoples, of all mankind. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19-20).
The Lord did not say to His disciples: go and teach individual select peoples, but all nations. This means that it is not only individuals who must live according to God’s word, according to Christian precepts, and to attain salvation in Christ, but all social groups, and more than that – entire nations, i.e. state formations. And if that is so, then the state system, state laws, and the very form of government must be infused with a benevolent Christian spirit.
As soon as the persecutions ended and Christianity came out of the catacombs, from the time of the holy equal-to-the-apostles Emperor Constantine the Great, the issue of the Christianization of social and state life presented itself to mankind which had converted to Christianity, and many large and small nations tried to resolve it in some manner or other.
By this time the Church founded by Christ – this divinely human establishment, this actual and material, i.e. visible on earth form of the Heavenly Kingdom, as philosopher Vladimir Solovyev called it, – already became a powerful factor in the life of the peoples who had converted to Christianity.
Being an establishment sui generis, i.e. a special kind of organism, the Church in principle did not aspire to replace the state apparatus. “Render unto God that which belongs to God, and to Caesar – that which is Caesar’s.” However, being an “organization of true life,” the Church tried to create this true life within the state.
On a historical plane certain collisions sometimes arose between Church and state. In the West the Church began more and more to suppress the state, appropriating Caesar’s functions for itself.
This manifestation is called theocracy by historians. For the almost 2,000 years of Christianity’s existence, theocracy was unable to achieve complete development and took on the somewhat bizarre form of papocaesarism.
In the East, in Byzantium, the opposite could be observed, alas! – a certain suppression of the Church by the state, which is customarily called caesaropapism.
In their struggle against this similarly-bizarre spiritual manifestation, the best minds of the Church and state crystallized a unique and truly divine system of mutual relations between the Church and the state, which came to be known as symphony, or, in other words, accord or concordance.
The essence of this symphony is as follows: the Church and the state each proceed to fulfill their missions independently, the Church on a divine plane and the state on a human plane, and if these planes should collide, the two entities synchronize their actions in such a way as to produce true symphony or harmony.
If the state, in the person of its monarch – the anointed one of God – deviates from divine law, the Church, in the person of its hierarch, uses its right of counsel and instruction. When the state’s violations of the law were especially flagrant, the hierarchs applied church sanctions: they excommunicated the emperors and other figures of authority, and did not even allow them to enter the church. Thus it was, for example, with Emperor Theodosius the Great, to whom St. Ambrose of Milan denied entry into the church for his order to execute all the inhabitants of a city that had revolted.
In Byzantium the idea of symphony achieved concrete, almost finite forms. Periods of symphony between the Church and state sometimes lasted for decades, and at such times Byzantium could rightly be called an enchurched nation, a preview of life in the Heavenly Kingdom.
Alas, external and internal circumstances prevented Byzantium and its statehood to attain world-wide importance. Hellenic wisdom helped the Church to create a profound and orderly system of Christian religious teaching, but the inheritors of glorious Byzantium, the Greeks of the second millennium of the Christian era, already did not have sufficient spiritual strength to implement in practice and to the very end the system of genuine Christian life, genuine Christian statehood. It appeared that the realization of such a system required greater spaces, a nation of greater proportions, a larger field of experience. And as the Byzantine Empire and the Hellenic culture declined, there appeared in its place and began to flourish a new state formation to the northeast, founded upon wide boundless spaces and populated by a young nation full of fresh mental and physical powers.
This people converted to Christianity not formally, not outwardly, as did many peoples in the West, but wholeheartedly, with its entire soul. Holy Prince Vladimir became the symbol of the transformation of the Russian soul after it put on its white baptismal vestments.
Of course not right away and not all the semi-barbaric Slavic tribes became model Christians, but the process of their Christianization and enchurchment was quicker and more profound than in the West. It is enough to mention that in the times of the Great Princes Yaroslav and Vladimir Monomachus, the then capital of Russia, Kiev, was a much more cultured city than its contemporaries Paris or London, while the legal code called “Russian Justice” was more infused with a bright Christian spirit than all the other contemporary legal codes of the Western peoples.
Unfortunately, the Russian people were unable to remain for long at the pinnacle of their great Christian calling. There began the fratricidal strife of the principalities, the internecine strife…
Then the Lord began to send tribulations of short duration upon the Russian land, warning the people by means of external sorrows. All kinds of Komans, Pincenates, Khazars, and other nomads began to ravage Russian cities and lands with fire and sword.
But alas! the Russian people did not come to their senses and continued their fratricidal strife.
Then, by God’s tolerance, the outwardly mighty Tatars appeared from the depths of Asia and enslaved Russian Christians for a long 250 years, physically destroying a good half of them and burning down and razing the majority of Russian cities and villages.
It was as though the fate of the Biblical Job the Long-suffering was repeated upon the Russian people. All earthly possessions were taken away from him, and only his soul the Lord commanded the devil not to touch. Thus the Tatars did not dare touch the Church, which was the one that saved the Russian soul from despair, breathed into it the will to live, and helped it arise anew. It was to the Orthodox Church that the Russia of those times owed its spiritual renaissance and its transformation into a large and monolithic state formation.
The Russian people, headed by the Great Prince Ivan III, came out from under the Tatar yoke with a realization of their great statehood, of their special calling in the world, with the idea of the Third Rome – inheritor of the declining Byzantium. This sacred and great idea, which inspired the best Russian people of those times, was the idea of the realization of genuine Christian statehood in the world.
The symphony of Church and state existed to some degree under the meek Tsar Fedor Ioannovich. It achieved greater development under Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich and Patriarch Philaret, and its culmination under Tsar Aleksey Mikhaylovich and Patriarch Nikon.
Tsar Peter sharply turned the wheel of the state ship away from divine rule towards human rule. He replaced the Orthodox kingdom with an Empire with purely worldly tendencies. Peter categorically renounced the symphony of Church and state, replacing it with caesaropapism of a rather extreme form. It should be honestly admitted that to a greater or lesser degree this caesaropapism existed in Russia up to the very revolution. It was only the Tsar-Martyr, Emperor Nicholas Aleksandrovich, the most religious and pious of all sovereigns after Peter, who gave back to Russia its canonical and conciliar Church structure, by convening an All-Russian Council at which a patriarch was elected and the lost symphony of Church and state was restored.
Thus we come to the time of the revolution.
Why did it occur?
It is my sincere conviction that it occurred because Russia did not fulfill its divine calling to present to the world an enchurched Christian state, in which a symphony between spiritual and civil power would reign.
What can we expect in the future? What is Russia’s destiny?
The genuine Christian consciousness, which believes in God’s Providence over us, cannot accept and decisively rejects the Bolshevik idea of a paradise on earth, the more so that there are absolutely no indications of such an idea in the Holy Scriptures.
The second path of which we spoke earlier, the path of turning Russia into a non-religious democratic Capitalistic state, no matter whether it be a monarchy or a republic, accords neither with the Russian soul, nor with Russian history, nor with Russian spiritual thought.
At the present time many of our church people have the expectation of an imminent end of the world. To a certain degree they are right. Never in the past 2,000 years have there been so many signs of Christ’s imminent coming. Terrible wars, great earthquakes, a horrific increase of evil, a general loss of faith, the preaching of Christianity throughout the entire world, since there is practically not a single corner of the earth where people have not heard of Christ, the terrible atomic bombs that can burn up the earth instantaneously, the winged iron locusts foretold in the Apocalypse, – all of this promotes an eschatological worldview.
However, personally I believe that Christianity has not yet been fully manifested in our earthly life. The ideal of a Christian state that would create favorable conditions for man’s salvation has not yet been fully realized by any one people and has not yet been revealed to the world in its harmonic completeness.
It is my deepest conviction that Christianity has not yet reached its culmination in life, has not yet said its last word. Neither has Russia said its last word.
Many, very many of the best Russian people, such as Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Khomyakov, Kireevsky, Aksakov and the other Slavophiles, Vladimir Solovyev, and a number of other prominent Russian writers and thinkers believed in Russia’s unique calling.
The current tragic times were foretold by St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. John of Kronstadt, St. Theophanus the Recluse, Optina elder Nectarius, and many others. All of them believed in the forthcoming resurrection of Holy Russia. Their prophecies are well-known.
Recently, during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, by the grace of God I became acquainted with new, hitherto unknown prophecies, which shed a new light on Russia’s destiny. These prophecies were discovered by a learned Russian monk in ancient Greek manuscripts that were preserved in an ancient Greek monastery. Anonymous holy fathers of the 8th and 9th centuries, i.e. contemporaries of St. John Damascene, recorded these prophecies in approximately the following words:
“After the God-elect Jewish people, having given their Messiah and Saviour over to torture and a shameful death, lost their chosenness, the latter was transferred to the Hellenes, who became the second chosen people. The ancient Greeks’ powerful and inquisitive mind, enlightened by Christianity, penetrated into the very depths of knowledge of the world. The great Eastern Church Fathers refined the Christian dogmas and created an orderly system of Christian teaching. In this lies the great merit of the Greek people. However, the Byzantine state does not have enough creative powers and capabilities to build a harmonic social and state life on this firm Christian foundation. The scepter of an Orthodox kingdom is falling out of the weakening hands of the Byzantine emperors, who have been unable to bring about a symphony of Church and state.
Therefore, to succeed the spiritually-decrepit chosen Greek people, the Providential Lord will elect a third people. This people will appear in the North in a century or two (these prophecies were written in the Palestine 150-200 years before the baptism of Russia), will receive Christianity wholeheartedly, will try to live according to Christ’s commandments and to seek, according to Christ the Saviour’s instructions, the Kingdom of God and His Truth above all. For such zeal the Lord God will make this people His beloved people and will give unto it all the rest – great territorial expanses, wealth, national might, and glory.
Due to human frailty, this great people will often fall into great sin and will be punished for it by many trials. After a thousand years or so, this God-elect people will waver in its faith and in its standing for Christ’s Truth, will become prideful of its might and glory, will cease seeking the future eternal City, and will wish for paradise on earth instead of in heaven.
However, not all of this people will follow the wide path to perdition, although the majority will, especially its leading elite. For this great fall a terrible trial by fire will be sent from heaven upon this people who had disdained God’s ways. Rivers of blood will flow upon its lands, brother will kill brother, hunger will often visit this land and will reap its fearful harvest, almost all the churches and other holy relics will be destroyed or defiled, a multitude of people will perish. Part of this people, not wishing to live with iniquity and untruth, will leave their homeland and, like the Jewish people, will become dispersed all over the world (does this not refer to us, Russian exiles?).
However, the Lord’s wrath will not completely envelop this third chosen people. The blood of thousands of martyrs will cry out to heaven for mercy. The people itself will start coming to its senses and returning to God. The time period of cleansing trials that had been determined by the Just Judge will finally pass, and once again renascent Holy Orthodoxy will shine like a bright light in those northern expanses. This wondrous light of Christ will illuminate and enlighten all the peoples of the world and will be aided by that part of the people who had been providentially sent into the diaspora in advance, building God’s churches all over the world. Christianity will then reveal itself in all its celestial beauty and fullness…
And afterwards? Afterwards, when time will reach its fulfillment, there will be a complete loss of faith all over the world and all the rest that has been foretold in the Scriptures, the Antichrist will appear, and the end of the world will finally come about.”
These prophecies were written in various manuscripts, but they are all concurrent. I have tried to present the main ideas contained in them, albeit in a more modern language. We should not forget that these prophecies were discovered in genuine Greek 8th and 9th-century manuscripts, when nothing was known about Russia as a nation, while the Russian plain was populated by scattered half-wild Slavic tribes and other peoples.
What can I add to this?
I believe that these prophecies refer to our Russian people, who are thus the third chosen people.
I believe that these amazing prophecies reveal the forthcoming destiny of the Russian people, and that everything will occur as had been foretold from above a thousand years ago. Through the renascent Russian people Holy Orthodoxy will once again present Christ the Saviour to the entire world. Amen.
He meekly walked along a thorny path,
With joy He met ignominy and death;
The lips which uttered teachings of stern truth
Did not reproach the jeering, mocking crowd.
He meekly walked and, crucified on the Cross,
For our sinful world enveloped in vice,
For all humanity flowed His holy Blood.
O weakling children of this sceptic age!
Does not that mighty Image speak to you
Of man’s majestic destiny and calling,
And urge your dormant will to greater feats?
No! I cannot believe that venal gain
Has stifled in us all the voice of truth.
The day will come… and Christ’s word will instill
Both life and strength into our decayed world!
– A. Pleshcheyev
– Translated by Natalia Sheniloff