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ANCIENT-ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS ABOUT THE HOLY PASCHAL TABLES AND THE CHURCH CALENDAR

ANCIENT-ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS ABOUT THE HOLY PASCHAL TABLES AND THE CHURCH CALENDAR

MESSAGE OF THE BISHOPS’ COUNCIL OF THE ANCIENT-ORTHODOX CHURCH TO ALL THE CHILDREN OF THE CHURCH LOVED BY GOD CONCERNING RELATIONS OF CHRIST’S CHURCH WITH ALL CIVIL POWERS AND AUTHORITIES

 "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's

(Matthew 22:21) 

Concerning relations with state authorities we do not propose anything new but what was given to us by Our God, Jesus Christ, Himself, His holy apostles and their successors – the holy fathers. For, in this case, just as with any issue, the only measure acceptable to us, the Christians, is God’s Word – the Holy Scriptures – interpreted by holy and wisdom endowed fathers and teachers of the Christ’s Holy Church. It is said: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). So, any human flesh will be judged under God’s Word: "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Thus, we shall listen [studiously] attentively to the very Word of the God spoken through Christ’s chief apostles: Peter and Paul: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God... Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (1 Peter 2, 13-15, 17). "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God”. "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing” (Romans 13, 1-6).

It seems that everything is quite clear in these apostles’ teachings, however, these very words of the Scriptures brought about numerous debates among people. The reason for disagreement is that the readers used their own interpretation, their own subjective experience and visions about the world surrounding them as the basis for understanding of the Holy Scriptures. But Christ’s Church is different. The Church has no room for dissidence in the issues of religious dogmas, for everything was quite fully and quite long ago defined by holy religious teachers, thus, we heed only them to understand the authentic meaning of statements made by the apostles.

While interpreting this apostle’s  the wise father and teacher of the Church, the reverend Isidore of Pelusium, in a message to a certain Dionysius, writes: "You wrote: what is the power but not from God? — and asked: is every governor put into a position of power by God? I shall answer to  this (and, please, do not be  angry for I shall not say something meaningless): it seems to me that you either have not read the teaching of Paul or have failed to understand it. The Apostle Paul did not say: there are no governors who are not from God but he spoke about the very fact of being a governor saying:for there is no power but of God.

Just as people have governors, and some are governors, and others are governed, it is not accidental, so that the peoples, just as waves, were driven here and there, but, according to Saint Paul, it is the case of God’s wisdom. As equality usually fires up wars, so God did not allow for democracy but established a king’s power followed by numerous other powers. You may ask what they are. The governor and the subjects, the husband and the wife, the father and the son, the elder and the young, the master and the slave, the teacher and the disciple.

And among the [unreasoning] irrational creatures one may notice this same principle, as among bees which are subordinated to a queen’s power, among cranes, among herds of wild sheep. And even the sea itself is not without this godly subordination. For there too many of the clans are ranged under one among the fish which make long expeditions from home. For anarchy, be where it may, is an evil, and a cause of confusion. Thus, even in the body He has not made all parts of equal honour, but He has made one less and another greater, and some of the limbs He has made to rule and some to be ruled. That is why, we may truly say that this very case, meaning power, that is authorities and a king’s power, are established by God for society to be orderly.

But if some evildoer seizes this power illegally, we do not affirm that he is put there by God, but we say that he will either vomit out his entire vileness as the Pharaoh and, thus, be subjected to severe punishment or bring to sense those who need cruelty as the king of Babylon brought the Jews to their senses” (Book 2, p. 6).

So, blessed Theophilactus the Bulgarian follows reverend Isidore. Explaining to the faithful the words of the holy apostle and the cornerstone of the faith Peter, the saint writes: "Governors appointed by kings and the very kings themselves are named human creatures as they are either elected or [put] established by people, and the Scriptures sometimes name them as creation and establishment, as, for example, in this place: "for to make in himself of twain one new man” (Ephesians 2, 15). So, it says, subordinate to civil governors but subordinate to God as God commanded. What did God command? "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's"(Matthews 22, 21). Thus, if they order something contrary to God’s commandments, disobey them. Thus Christ commanded; thus His disciple commands. It is done accordingly for the pagans not to say that Christianity allegedly brings about a downfall of life (civil), that it is allegedly the cause of disorder and commotion. "For the sake of God” – it is added for the faithful as well. Some of them could say: this very Apostle promises us the Heavenly Kingdom and, through it, ascribes great dignity to us. Why does he humble us by subordinating us to civil governors? Therefore if someone so declares, he should know, and say, that this commandment is not from me personally, but from God Himself. The Apostle Peter himself [pointed out] stated to what governors we ought to submit ourselves, exactly to those to whom one is to pay homage. And he also adds the reason for it: firstly, such is God’s will; secondly, our submission to governors is a proof of our proper behaviour, and, even more, it humbles those who are not of the faithful. For when they slander us as do the proud and see that we are humble and obedient, in what we should be obedient, they put themselves even all the more to shame … Be obedient as those who are free who do not resort to freedom to cover up evil but as God’s servants. Pay homage not only to governors but to all, love your brothers, fear God, honour the king. Just as free men. John Chrysostom explains these words in this way: "lest they say: we have freed ourselves from the world, we have become the citizens of heaven; why again do you subordinate us to governors and order to obey them? Therefore, it is said: submit yourselves as free men, i.e. the faithful in the One who freed you, but He also commanded submission. Because, by doing so, you show that it is not your use of freedom, under which you refuse to obey, in order to conceal deliberate evil, i.e. insubordination and disobedience”. It is possible to say with regard to this expression (as free men) something in a different sense. He is free in God who does not subordinate himself to anything immoral. It is natural to live hypocritically not for the one who is free but for the one who is a slave to passions, say, obsequiousness to men, or some other shameful passion. And God’s servants should be strange and alien to passions. Thus, nowadays, it is orderly to be obedient to authorities in a kind-hearted and sincere way, without aversion to them and somewhat under compulsion, without any anger in the heart, without pretence of being sincere and simple, to be obedient not only outwardly but with cordial inclination. And not to use your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness. To put it in a nutshell: trying to be simple and sincere outwardly, as if under the cover of freedom, but, in trouble, turning out to be horrible and quite different to the outward appearance… He says fear God and honour a king. If it is duly to fear God, who is able to destroy both soul and body (Matthew 10, 28), so we should not subordinate ourselves to kings who order us to do something immoral. For the fear of God is able to defeat the honour to kings, too, and when he is forced to do evil, he even deprives them of honour, as the saint said: «in his sight the evil doer is contemned” (Psalms 14, 4)».

This is what the godly Saint John Chrysostom writes about secular authorities: "Without going one by one into the benefits done to states by the rulers, as that of good order and peace, the other services, as regarding the soldiery, and those over the public business, he shows the whole of this by a single case. For that thou art benefited by him, he means, thou bearest witness thyself, by paying him a salary. Observe the wisdom and judgment of the blessed Paul. For that which seemed to be burdensome and annoying --the system of imposts--this he turns into a proof of their care for men. What is the reason, he means, that we pay tribute to a king? It is not as providing for us? And yet we should not have paid it unless we had known in the first instance that we were gainers from this superintendence. Yet it was for this that from of old all men came to an agreement that governors should be maintained by us, because to the neglect of their own affairs, they take charge of the public and on this they spend their whole leisure, whereby our goods also are kept safe[1].

This is the teaching of the apostles. This is the teaching of the holy fathers. This is the teaching of the Church of Christ.

The Scriptures say: "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1), - thus, we have given a plentiful number of witnesses and evidence which are sufficient to any sincere Christian heart to understand the Church’s teachings on this issue.

Because of this, by following the holy fathers, we certify that authorities are God’s establishment, for the reason that "For since equality of honour does many times lead to fighting, He has made many governments and forms of subjection; as that, for instance, of man and wife, that of son and father, that of old men and young, that of bond and free, that of ruler and ruled, that of master and disciple. … For anarchy, be where it may, is an evil, and a cause of confusion". "For it is in no small degree that they contribute to the settled state of the present life, by keeping guard, beating off enemies, hindering those who are for sedition in the cities, putting an end to differences among any. For do not tell me of some one who makes an ill use of the thing, but look to the good order that is in the institution itself, and you will see the great wisdom of Him who enacted this law from the first[2].

We also testify that God who has established inequality and subordination of the smaller to the greater in the world requires from Christians voluntary and obedient submission to the governors in the state, at work and in the family. However, submission should not be to merely any order of a governor but must be accompanied by study and scrutiny of such an order to ascertain its conformity with the Holy Gospel. Since, "when you hear: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's", know that it means all those things which in no way harm the piety; anything against the piety is no longer that of Caesar's, but impost and tribute to the devil[3]. Thus, despite a personality of a ruler, we are to submit ourselves to him, be he faithful or unfaithful, in everything which is not against the Christian faith and piety. For, even if a governor is not a Christian, but if he is guided in his acts and orders by morality, justice and honesty, it means, according to the Scriptures, that he is God’s servant in all charitable matters and we subordinate ourselves to God Himself by submitting to such a governor. But if any governor, be he faithful or unfaithful, rises up against any virtue and forces us to violate any, even the smallest, commandment of God, we are to oppose such an order decisively and firmly, and with boldness should put forward the words of the holy apostles to his immoral order: "We ought to obey God rather than men”(Acts 5:29). For only for the sake of God’s will and commandments we [should] are to [subordinate] submit ourselves to civil governing rulers and only in [just] precisely those things in which they subordinate themselves to God’s will, [subsequently] consequently, the will of a human being in no case may be greater for us than God’s will.

Even in our quite recent history we observe examples how, wishing to follow the will of the Heavenly Master, Christians disregarded the impious will of civil rulers. When Russian tsars claiming to be Orthodox Christians provided support to perfidious reforms of Patriarch Nikon and unsheathed swords against those who rose against such unlawfulness, our ancestors preferred to leave their beloved Motherland where the Orthodox Faith was subjected to abuse and to escape to other countries where their faith was not infringed upon. The Scriptures say: "But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another” (Matthew 10:23). And they fled just like their Master, Christ, Who Himself was a fugitive in the land of Egypt [4]. They [ran away] fled to Lithuania and Poland. They [ran away] fled to Austria and Prussia. They [ran away] fled to Turkey and Egypt. And there, they fled further to places where God hid them away from their persecutors. And even there, in strange lands, our fathers created the pillars of the Christian faith and until now we have remained faithful to their heritage with gratefulness.

Further on, we also testify that, despite the fact that the power itself is God’s establishment, nevertheless, not all persons with powers are put in such positions by God and are pleasing to God but sometimes they are only permitted by God, for "if some evildoer seizes this power illegally, we do not affirm that he is put there by God, but we say that he will either vomit out his entire vileness as the Pharaoh and, thus, be subjected to severe punishment or bring to their senses those who need cruelty as the king of Babylon brought the Jews to their senses” (the reverend Isidore of Pelusium). That is, an impious governor will surely answer for his ungodliness, however, for some time, God may be patient with him, in the Hand of God, as an instrument of punishment of disobedient, perverted and cruel-hearted people. It is the behaviour of people, from their attitude to God’s Laws which [determine] determines the way God rules the heart of such a governor, for it is said: "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). "If God blesses, He gives governors who honour justice... But God allows evil governors to bring [to sense] the sinners to their senses” (Saint Theodoret of Cyrus). And we should obey such evil governors in everything which is not contradictory to Christian piety by our acknowledging their right for governing and pray for their correction and the salvation of their souls.

Our pious predecessors also teach us the same thing by their example, as, on the one hand, they addressed the civil authorities (heretics and persecutors) by pointing to their acts of injustice but, on the other hand, they acknowledged their power over themselves and prayed for them so that God would turn them to repentance and let their hearts hear the good things pertaining to His Holy Church.

Thus, for example, when the Russian Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich provided all possible support to the perfidious council of reformers of 1666 our fathers testified to it at the council and to the tsar with sadness in their hearts: "This Moscow Council held during the rule of Tsar Alexey is not similar to holy pious councils but, in its acts, is similar to evil heretical wily gatherings of torturers as it was during the rule of King Anastasius and King Constantine Copronimus of Greece and the like, and it is not worthy of being named a holy council by us, the Orthodox Christians, but it should be named a gathering of the devil and murderers of the Christians"(deacon Theodore Ivanov. The Message related to the 1666 Council).

This notwithstanding, Tsar Alexey having likened himself to ancient Greek heretical kings, however, the defenders of the ancient piety did not defy his state power but continued to pray him and obeyed him as his subjects testifying to this fact in their letters and petitions.

Thus, in 1667, that is, after the Great Moscow Council which adopted Nikon’s reforms and other various delusions, reverend Solovki monks addressed the heretical king and persecutor Alexey Mikhailovich in this way: "From the Heavenly King anointed over all kings to the Great Tsar of the entire Universe, Our King and Great Prince Alexey Mikhailovich, the Sovereign ofentire Great, and Small, and White Russia we make obeisance to You – churchmen from Solovki monastery – cellarer the elder Azarey, and treasurer the elder Gerontey, and priests, and deacons, and diocesan monks, and all rank-and-file brothers, and altar boys, and all monastery workers” (the 5thSolovki Petition).

In 1668 Christ’s confessor, holy priest Lazarus in his petition to the tsar wrote: "Our pious Sovereign, Tsar and Great Prince Alexey Mikhailovich, anointed by God’s power... And may God of the world be with you and protect you by His cross from any enemies, visible and invisible, for ever and ever, amen”.

Like the holy priest Lazarus, martyr monk Abramius in his questions and answers in 1670 testified to his attitude to the renegade tsar: "I pray with all my heart to God Almighty for the health of the tsar and for the welfare, safety, and strengthening of his kingdom”.

Having spoken about recent times let us go back to ancient times, the times of holy apostles, for the most illustrious in Church history is the historic example of the service of God’s Prophet Daniel with his three pious sons at the court of [Babylon] King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. For their violence God put His people of Israel under the power of King Nebuchadnezzar. King Nebuchadnezzar fully demolished the Old Testament Temple – "And he burnt the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 25:9), "And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD… all these he brought to Babylon” (2 Chronicles 36:18) "and put them in his temple at Babylon” (2 Chronicles 36:7), "Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door… And the king of Babylon smote them, and put them to death in Riblah in the land of Hamath” (Jeremiah 52:24-27). The sons, faithful to God, submitted themselves in civil matters even to such a persecutor and destroyer of the Temple and even performed great state services, for [examples] instance, such as these holy men "Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (Daniel 1:6). "And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king” (Daniel 1:19). And their example is especially a clear evidence of this truth, as, on the one hand, Prophet Daniel said addressing King Nebuchadnezzar: "Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory” (Daniel 2:37), but on the other hand, being a prisoner, Daniel observed the laws of the faith so assiduously that he avoided even the food from the table of the pagan ruler: "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:8,9). But when the pagan king put his hand not only on the property and bodies of God’s servants but impinged on their  very faith, the holy men openly, decisively, and fearlessly opposed the religious tyrant and opposed him in a civil way even under a threat of death: "Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar … Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:13-18). Any Christian should answer in this way to any governor who impinges on our holy faith.

Seeing the example of the life of holy Prophet Daniel and the holy youths we observe that only God’s will is of importance to Christians, however, it does not mean that Christians should keep away from a public and political life of countries where they live. Nothing like that, on the contrary, since God’s servant may be any governor acting under the truth, even if he is not [a faithful one] one of the faithful, all the more so, God’s servant may be an Orthodox Christian carrying the burden of power. We know numerous examples from the history of the Church, both the Old Testament Church and the New Testament Church, when God’s children served unfaithful governors and such service did not hamper their life of piety. Such was Joseph at the court of an Egyptian Pharaoh and such was Prophet Daniel serving the [Babylon] Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, such was Saint George the Victorious who commanded the army of a pagan Roman emperor, and such was Saint John of Damascus who was a minister in an [Arabic] Arab caliphate. And all of them not only kept their faith but, through the example of their lives, they caused respect for the True God in the hearts of [pageants] pagans by following Christ’s commandment: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). All Christians who have taken upon themselves the burden of a governor’s power should follow their example.

Finally, if a Christian may be the head of a family, undoubtedly, he may be the head of a state unless he needs to violate God’s laws. However, it is not a command but a permission for it is said about Christians: "For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13:14) about which Christ Himself said: "My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

The Lord definitely divided [the humanity] mankind into peoples, tribes and languages but it is not a reward to humans but a punishment for impertinence revealed at the Tower of Babel when people blinded by their pride sought to be equal to the glory of God through scientific and technical progress, having forgotten that the mind, the ability for cognition and creation are also given by God, [ too,] and are not a personal merit [and] or an achievement of human beings: "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:1-9). That is why the Scriptures say about God that it is "of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3, 15) for His will was to divide the humanity into peoples and to grant a motherland to each of them.

But it was also a punishment from which our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, came to save and saved us. For His initial will was not to have any divisions among people but to have an absolute brotherhood which is built on the earth by Christ’s faith and "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3:11).

The Church testified to the same in the Orthodox Creed – we believe "in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. The Church is called Catholic "All true believers united by the holy tradition of the faith, collectively and successively, by the will of God, compose the Church” (The Larger Catechism. Chapter 25, Page 119). That is why, all Orthodox Christians without discrimination for nationality or place of residence are "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9,10).

The Scriptures call us strangers and pilgrims in this world and underline that all our thoughts should, first of all, be about the Heavenly Country: "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

Saint Apostle is followed by the great master of the Church, Saint Gregory the Theologian when he speaks about Christians: "My friend, every one that is of high mind has one Country, the Heavenly Jerusalem, in which we store up our Citizenship. All have one family—if you look at what is here below the dust—or if you look higher, that Inbreathing of which we are partakers, and which we were bidden to keep, and with which I must stand before my Judge to give an account of my heavenly nobility, and of the Divine Image. Everyone then is noble who has guarded this through virtue and consent to his Archetype. On the other hand, everyone is ignoble who has mingled with evil, and put upon himself another form, that of the serpent. And these earthly countries and families are the playthings of this our temporary life and scene. For our country is whatever each may have first occupied, either as tyrant, or in misfortune; and in this we are all alike strangers and pilgrims, however much we may play with names. [5].

But should we be absolutely indifferent to the country where we live, to the fate of the people to whom we belong according to our physical birth? No, not at all! For it is said: "and seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7). An example of great love to the people of common blood was the Apostle Saint Paul: "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1-3). Note that the Apostle cares not about bodily wellbeing or a political power of his kinsmen according to the flesh but about their salvation by gaining the Faith of Christ. And for this sake he is ready himself to forfeit salvation for his love was great.

Following these Heavenly words and examples the Church of Christ prays to God every day "For this city, and for every city and land, and for the faithful who dwell therein”.

Nevertheless, since a Christian should care about any city and any country where God has destined him to live, moreover, he should care about a country which is most predisposed to accept God’s words. And one of such countries, and even the first of them, without any doubt, is Russia, as during many centuries the entire Russian people were united and brought together by the light of the teaching of Christ the True Holy Orthodox Faith. Although, still in the XVII century, through the Church Schism, the devil managed to destroy the spiritual unity of the Russian people, to split them through the reforms of impious emperor Peter ideologically, politically and culturally, and later, in the XX century, make them follow alien gods, the very history of the Russian people, its historical memory invariably testify to the great path from which the people have gone astray in negligence. But, as the path is known, it means that it is possible to return to it, despite numerous losses, for God is mighty and may resurrect even the dead as it is said "that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:9).

Although, to great regret, the Russian people now live in the times  of moral and spiritual decay, but the people may still return to the faith of their pious ancestors and again become the torchlight for the entire world for which we all pray to God exclaiming: "Glory be to [you,] Thee,  O lord, Who [care] dost care for  about] our Russian land” [6],  and we call upon His Most Blessed and Holy Mother: "Our most Holy Mother, our assistant, make us strong against enemies like humble David. In ancient times [you saved] didst save this king’s city from alien tribes, [so,] likewise  now save our country, Russia, from foreign invasion, from internal wars, from hunger and betrayal, and from lethal diseases. For Thou the Bride of God art our protection and salvation [7].

We also pray to God through His ways to make it so that the virtue of His children may be an example and an inspiration for all peoples living spiritually among the resurrected and renewed Russian people. Since we all should be turned to the teaching of Christ but not through violence, but with the Word of God which is "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  A support to the word should be our life according to God’s commandments and the prayer for all people so that the words said by God may come true for all of us: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). That is why the Christians should "Have your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

But, is it possible in our bitterly sorrowful times when it seems that apocalyptic prophecies come true? No doubt, it is possible, for it is said "that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one dayThe Lord is not slack concerning his promise … but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8,9), as "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10), "but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Romans 5:20).

And if God pardoned the ancient people of Nineveh who repented of their sins, so, even more so, He may divert His anger from the Russian people again having adorned it with ancient godliness, the virgin faith of the holy fathers.

Will it happen? We do not know. Only God knows as everything is within His power for it is said: "Except the Lord keep the city, he that keepeth it watcheth but in vain” (Book of Psalms 126:1). Our Christian case is not to guess about it, not to test God’s fortune but to act under the Divine Truth and to pray for dying mankind so that the words of the Scriptures may come true also with us:  "And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jonah 3:10).

"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).

 

The city of Moscow.

The year of 7520, the 12thday of the month of December.

In the week of the holy fathers and in the memory of

Saint and Wonderworker Spyridon of Trymithous and

Saint Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia ALEXANDER

 

Bishop of Siberia SERGIY

 

Bishop of Low Volga SAVIN

 

Priest and representative of

His Eminence Jacob, Bishop of Sion and Western Europe

GEORGIY (NOVIKOV)

 

Bishop of Upper Volga VASILIY

 

Bishop of the Ukraine NIKOLA


[1] Saint John Chrysostom. Writings, volume 9, Book 2, Homilies 23: "On Obedience” Saint Petersburg, 1903, page 777.

[2] Ibid, page 778.

[3] Saint John Chrysostom. Writings, volume 7, Book 2, Saint Petersburg, 1901, page 712.

[4] "The angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod” (Matthew 2:13-15)

[5] Saint Gregory the Theologian. Writings, volume 1, Oration 33, Against Arians and Concerning Himself. Saint Petersburg: Soikin, 1912, page 488.

[6] From an ikos of the canon to the Feast of the Deposition of the Robe, July, 10th.

[7] Litia sticheron from the service to the Feast of Appearance of Tikhvin Icon of Holy Mother, June 26th.

 


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