Patriarch Varnava of Serbia (+1937)

"I Love the Russian People"
(on the 75th anniversary of his enthronement)

From the Editors: On June 9/22, 1930, at the Russian Holy Trinity Church in Belgrade, His Holiness Patriarch Varnava of Serbia, a spiritual giant and great friend of the Russian people, addressed the parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with the following archpastoral words. Patriarch Varnava received his theological education in Russia, where he became acquainted with many great hierarchs of the Russian Church of the 20th century who later became Holy New Martyrs. Here he came to know Blessed Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky, +1936), who headed the Council of Bishops Abroad. His four-year sojourn in Russia, during which he did not leave the country once, made a deep impression on the sensitive soul of the future patriarch. The beauty and splendor of Russian divine services and all their ecclesiastical rites remained forever in his soul, and wherever he found himself--as a bishop, a metropolitan and then patriarch--the future Serbian archpastor introduced the Russian tradition into divine services. Gentle, hospitable Russia became for him a second homeland. During his 4th year at St Petersburg Theological Academy, Petr Rosic (the name of Patriarch Varnava as a layman), was tonsured to the monkhood with the name Varnava, which in translation means the "son of consolation." The young monk earned his name in the future as a great man of mercy. In 1930, Metropolitan Varnava of Skopl was elected Patriarch of Serbia. During the seven years of his patriarchal service, he introduced new law and rites for the Serbian Church. Church life acquired a rhythm. Strong young cadres of theologians arose. An enormous patriarchal house was built. The capital was adorned with new churches. Attendance at the capital's churches increased many fold. Everywhere, magnificent choirs were formed. Fervent work on the Christian life was performed. When His Holiness Patriarch Varnava, protector and benefactor of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, died in 1937, the entire Russian ĪmigrĪ community experienced deep sorrow, expressing it in tears and fervent prayers at all funerary services:Beloved brethren!

I am glad that the Lord allowed me, for the first time, today, as Patriarch, to enter the historic Russian church in Belgrade, to hear the words of greeting by the worthy protopriest and receive from him your gift to me of this white klobuk. The white klobuk is a symbol of Russian hierarchs, in which the white symbolizes purity, and the cross is the cross of suffering, which is borne by the Russian bishops in these years, both in their homeland and all over the world, together with their God-loving flock.

Your love and your gift bolster within me even more those feelings which I have felt for you.

I love you not only for being Russian people who reside in my Patriarchate; I love you even more as the representatives of the great Russian nation, the pillars of the Ecumenical Church; a people who accepted in their hearts the southern Slavs, among whom are we, the Serbs.

Gazing upon the Russian people now, "where shall we begin to weep?" or to rejoice? We weep that you lost your fatherland, that day after day wails and cries from there are heard, where before was the perpetual singing of the victorious hymn to God. We weep that your fatherland has been taken over by an antagonistic force which rejects God, which kills His faithful servants: hierarchs, pastors and devoted sons of the Church. This is all sent down not only for our sins, but also as a test from God. Only a people great in spirit, a people of whom such great saints, martyrs and confessors have come, who adorn the Church, could have endured such torture, and we rejoice when we hear how the Russian martyrs stand for the Church. Such suffering could only be seen in the first centuries of Christianity, and even then there were not so many martyrs as the Russian Church has given us now.

Know that the heathens who persecute the Church, who not only torture her but try to split her apart, divide her, are stretching their criminal hands towards you who are outside the borders of the fatherland. You, devoted sons of Russia, must remember that you are the sole pillar of the great Russian people, you are obligated no matter what to preserve unharmed your people's church traditions in all their purity. This is your duty before God, before your great homeland and before the entire Christian world. The divisions in the church, sown by the enemies of our homeland, must cease no matter what may come.

Among you is the great hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony, who is a jewel of the Ecumenical Orthodox Church. This is a lofty mind equal to the first hierarchs of the Church of Christ in the beginning of Christianity. Within him is the truth of the Church, and those who have split away from him, must return. All of you, not only those living in our Serbia, but those who are in America, in Asia, in all the countries of the world, must form a single indomitable whole together with your archpastor, Metropolitan Anthony, which will not succumb to the attacks and provocations of the enemies of our Church.

As the Serbian Patriarch, and as your own brother, I fervently pray God that He unite the Russian people who are abroad into one body; so that Russia would rise again as she once was, with an Orthodox Tsar at the helm, and I bless you all with a Patriarchal blessing in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and all His saints. Amen.