Paschal Epistle of Bishop Alexander of Buenos Aires and South
America Christ is risen!
"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death
. . ."
I greet you,
my dear ones, with the joyous feast of the Resurrection of Christ!
time of the triumph of evil and darkness is ended; the Sun of
the Resurrection blazes forth. And the disciples of Christ, having
run away in fright on that terrible day of the Crucifixion, hear
with embarrassment and trembling the first news that the Lord
has risen from the grave.
and persecutions and martyric death still lie ahead for the Apostles.
But there will never again be that sorrow and that horror that
seized their spirit on the night of the Crucifixion. For it is
that every grief, every torment, and death itself is illuminated
and defeated by the light of the Resurrection of Christ.
And in our
time, amidst the worries and all possible fears, in like manner
brightly shines the light of Christ. "Christ reigns forever!"
cried the Christian martyrs going to their torments and death.
We sing, together with the church choir: "Arise, O God, judge
the earth, for Thou shalt have an inheritance among all the nations!"
From a spiritual
point of view, the history of humanity is nothing other than a
war between good and evil, between God and the devil. This war
is focused in human hearts, in which the kind beginnings placed
there by their Creator fight with the sinful poison of the serpent-tempter.
The victories just as the defeats in this war are not long-lived,
as each of us knows well by his own personal experience: today
I am illuminated by bright desires; I feel like a son of God and
want to love everyone, but tomorrow — I am full of bitterness
and evils, a pitiful toy of any little passion.
war, knowing no truce, arising in every human personality, pours
over into society, taking hold of families, social strata, and
even whole governments and nationalities.
In the form
of a stark example of the elemental scale of the war between good
and evil, one can introduce two historically distant but spiritually
similar occurrences, staggering at their beginning—of the ancient
Jewish and, quite recently, of the Russian peoples. I have in
view the Babylonian Captivity, which happened six hundred years
before the birth of Christ, and the enslavement of the Russian
people by the God-fighting Communist regime.
A great value
of the holy books of the Old Testament is that in them is clearly
revealed the direct connection between the prosperity of the nation
and its devotion to God. While the Israelite nation fulfilled
God's commandments and tried to live righteously, God blessed
it with the fruitfulness of the earth and protected it from enemies;
when it fell away from its Creator, God turned away from it. Then
all possible calamities fell down upon the Jews; the earth ceased
to bring forth its fruits; their neighboring enemies seized and
cruelly enslaved them. Oppressed by the enemy heathen tribes,
the Jews, by the call to them of their prophets, repented and
turned to God, and then He of many mercies sent to them an unexpected
salvation. The whole two-thousand-year Old-Testament history represents
an alternating series of spiritual falls and risings of Israel.
significant in this series of falls and risings was, without doubt,
the Babylonian Captivity, beginning 580 years before the birth
of Christ and continuing more than seventy years.
most important prophets of the Old Testament—Isaiah, Jeremiah,
Ezekiel and Daniel—focused nearly all their calls to repentance,
their promises of salvation and predictions of coming events,
on exactly the Babylonian Captivity. And this, it is thought,
was because this harsh imprisonment deeply changed to the better
the religious character of the Jewish nation. After this, the
following great event in the life of this people was the coming
to earth of the Messiah—the Savior of humanity.
It is interesting
to note that the salvation from imprisonment came from a most
unexpected direction. The Persian king, Artaxerxes, who had been
not at all interested in the restoration of this restless and
always-rebellious Jewish state, made a decree in 453 B.C. commanding
the Jews to return to their country and restore Jerusalem (Nehemiah,
chapter 2. From this year begins the calculation of the prophecies
of Daniel about the coming of the Messiah; Daniel, chapter 9).
In the New
Testament era, the ruling of Russia by the God-fighting regime
carries in itself many signs that go with the Babylonian Captivity.
First, both the coming of Communism and then its fall occurred
not through the strength of some kind of serious political reasons
but through purely spiritual ones: in the beginning—the departure
from the Orthodox faith and the fascination with materialistic
ideas, and then—the repentant return to God. Moreover, the fall
of Communism came not through the bloody revolution of an exhausted
people but "from above," from the side of President Gorbachev,
who by the establishment of "Glasnost" (openness) assisted "Perestroika"
(restructuring) and the fall of that system that he himself headed.
That fact, that the enslavement by the God-fighting state continued,
as at Babylon, about seventy years, encourages us to search for
the spiritual parallels between these two catastrophes. And there
exist an abundance of these parallels.
as in the time of the Old Testament the Lord sent prophets to
save the Jewish people from the coming disaster, God also sent
to the Russian people His perspicacious monastic elders who warned
of the falling away from God as so destructive for the country.
They also showed the Russian nation the path to salvation from
the "claws" of satan through a return to faith, repentance, and
moral renewal. The majority of these prophecies were fulfilled.
pour light on the wider picture of world events and help to correctly
evaluate what is happening in front of our eyes. Observing the
swift departure from Christianity of modern society, the fall
of moral foundations, the strengthening of all kinds of occult
teachings, the fascination with cruelty and vulgarity and demonism
and every disfigurement becomes terrible for the coming world
in which we live. Foretelling the fall of the Communist regime
in Russia and the rebirth of faith in the nation worn out with
suffering, the Russian elders at one time explained that this
will happen in the times near to the Second Coming of Christ.
How can one
properly comprehend that which occurred with Russia in the last
hundred years or more?
myself to make a small digression. My family, sharing the difficult
lot of many Russian emigrants, searched out in different spiritual
publications all that was written by the Russian saints about
the fate of Russia. We deeply believed that Communism would fall
sooner or later and that in Russia the Orthodox faith would be
reborn. Expecting this, we lived, as the expression goes, "out
of our suitcases," hoping that we would be able to return to our
motherland at a time just around the corner. Now I understand
that some of our hopes were naive. For example, we expected the
rapid restoration of the monarchy and that, thanks to religious
liberty, the whole Russian nation, as if with one spirit, would
pour into the churches. In this we were like those Jews, returning
from the Babylonian Capitivity, who still remembered the previous
greatness of Jerusalem and Solomon's temple. But seeing how slowly
and with what difficulty is moved forward the creation of one
and of the other, they bitterly bewailed the misery of their country.
It oppressed them also that the young Jews, having returned from
the Captivity, were already quite different—made alien to their
nationality and spiritually savage. It lay ahead to rebuild not
so many stones as much as to re-educate human spirits, which is
much more difficult.
Do we not
hear similar negative references to what is happening in Russia
from the direction of our compatriots abroad? However, for the
ancient Jews there remained one undoubted achievement: the idols
that had earlier captured the hearts of their fathers had forever
and irreversibly become an abomination for those who returned
from the Capitivity. Grant, O Lord, that also the Russian people
fully recognizes the emptiness of the materialistic and theosophic
idols that had earlier so fascinated our high society!
I am clearly
reminded of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1973 with Russian
youth. The then abbess of the monastery at Gethsemane, Mother
Barbara (Tsvetkova), in a conversation with us told us the prophecy
of the elder Aristocleus of Athos (1838-1918), who was living
then in Moscow. The elder told the abbess, then a young student,
that "regeneration in Russia will begin after a most powerful
explosion on the bank of a big river." Neither the aged abbess
nor I understood how to understand this prediction. But, when
in 1986 the horrible atomic catastrophe occurred at Chernobyl
and Perestroika began, I remembered this prophecy of elder Aristocleus
A few years
later I became acquainted with the following prophecy of the same
elder: "Russia will be saved. There will be many sufferings and
torments. Everyone must suffer through more and more, and deeply
repent. Only repentance through suffering will save Russia. All
Russia will be made a prison, and it will be necessary to pray
much to the Lord for forgiveness. To repent of sins and to fear
to do even the smallest sins, but to try to do good, even the
smallest good. But even the wing of a fly has weight, and the
scales of God are exact. And when the smallest good in the bowl
outweighs [the other side of the scale], then God will show His
Mercy to Russia . . ."
fall of Communism and the rebirth of the Russian Church, elder
Seraphim Vyritsky (1865-1949) spoke in more detail than others.
In the years
of bloody persecution, when it seemed that the Church was doomed
to a quick and full destruction, Fr. Seraphim spoke of her approaching
rebirth: about the renewal of then forbidden bell ringing, about
the opening of ruined temples of God and of holy monasteries.
Father constantly reminded his many visitors about the promise
of God about the invincibility of the Church to the gates of hell.
Father Seraphim talked about the rebirth of particular monasteries:
the Lavra of the Holy Trinity of St. Sergius, of Diveevo and of
others. It is notable that, foretelling of the rebuilding of the
Alexander Nevsky Lavra, the elder talked about how in the beginning
the government would return to the Church, as a parish temple,
Holy Trinity Cathedral, and then later, after many years, also
the whole Lavra will be given to the monastics. Father also foretold
that with time, a monastery will be founded also in Vyritsky,
and Leningrad will be renamed Saint Petersburg anew...
To the question
of his spiritual son about the future of Russia, elder Seraphim
suggested he look out of the window facing the Gulf of Finland.
There he saw many ships sailing under different flags. "How is
this to be understood?" he asked the elder. Father answered: "Such
a time will come when there will be a spiritual blossoming in
Russia. Many temples and monasteries will be opened; even those
of other faiths will come to us on such ships to be baptized.
But this will not be for long—about fifteen years... And then will
come the Antichrist."
spoke further with sadness: "The time will come when not persecution
but money and the deception of this world will turn people from
God, and more souls will be lost to these than in the times of
open fighting against God. From one side, they will raise up crosses
and guild cupolas with gold, and from the other — will rise up
the kingdom of deceit and of evil. The true Church will always
be persecuted, and it will be possible to be saved only through
griefs and illnesses. The persecutions will take on a most sharpened,
unpredictable character. It will be terrible to live to these
times. We, glory be to God, will not attain that age, but then
from the Kazan Cathedral will go out a procession of the cross
to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra."
to introduce here a comforting poem of elder Seraphim's about
the changes in Russia:
relation does what has been said here by me have to the Feast
of all feasts being celebrated now? The closest and most direct
relation: the inexhaustible source of spiritual strengths in the
fight with the prince of darkness and in the victory over him,
which the Russian people recently gained, always was and will
be namely THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST. It is the Victory of all
of Christ contains within itself something unique and unrepeatable,
because it is a victory of the absolutely impossible (in human
understanding); "dust" conquered strength and power! In battles,
even the most difficult and desperate, while a brilliant commander
lives, his officers and troops are inspired by hope. They know
how many times in the past he has converted obvious defeats into
dizzying victories. But, kill the commander and all is finished;
this is an irreversible catastrophe.
In a similar
way, when Christ gave up His Spirit on the Cross, all the hopes
of His disciples crashed down. His body without breath helplessly
hung down from the Cross. His evil enemies dispersed, satisfied.
No one of His contemporaries could compare even nearly with Christ
the miracle-worker, before Whom even nature had earlier trembled.
But now, His disciples thought, even God, clearly, had turned
away from Him, and Christ could not cope with His enemies. Why?
Perhaps Christ had appeared to be unsatisfactory to Him. Although
the disciples continued to love their Teacher for His love and
tenderness, they probably, however, in the depth of the soul felt
deceived. But they, having left everything, selflessly followed
Him, being prepared even to give themselves as a sacrifice to
assist the success of His mission. But, alas, all this seemed
naive dreams! Physical strength and power — here is what decides
the fate of the world. Gathering with their thoughts, they began
to make plans, how to return to their families and to try to mend
what was possible. It was not in their power to dispel the shock
of the tragedy that had taken place.
despite every logic, rose on the third day, alive, as the Victor
over hell and death, no one was able to believe it. Only personal
and frequent contact with the Risen One gradually dispersed their
doubts. They began to understand the foretellings by Christ about
this and the prophecies of the ancient prophets, in order, in
the end, to be convinced of the reality of what had happened.
So, the apparent defeat in fact turned into an incredible victory.
Now, as the
head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ invests His disciples
with Strength from above and instructs them to continue His mission
among all peoples. All the history in the New Testament, most
pertinent, illustrates the strength of the Risen One, the greatest.
Having heard only His name, the demons in panic run away; their
prince, the ancient dragon, is helpless to stop the preaching
of the Gospel. Carrying within itself a great blessed strength,
it penetrates into human hearts and makes previously desperate
sinners righteous. The Kingdom of God swiftly grows, and no one
is able to stop it. But this is not a mechanical victory; in it
must act the heart of each of us. Temporary successes of the forces
of evil that they at times achieve depend on our sinfulness and
instability. The spiritually weaker a man is, the stronger against
him are the demons, and the reverse. Here is why it is so important
to them to morally corrupt society. For this goal all the forces
of evil are united, penetrating the laws of a country, the scholastic
programs, the contents of books, journals, movies, and television
programs... Slowly, but single-mindedly and stubbornly, they labor
at the preparation of the coming of the Antichrist. But these
very efforts bring them closer to the edge of fiery Gehenna, in
which they will burn day and night unto ages of ages. After the
Resurrection of Christ, their war against Christ the Savior is
that spiritual transfiguration that is now going on in Russia,
one is convinced with all obviousness that the strength of the
Resurrected One has not diminished at all in our time. And in
our days there are many deep believers and righteously living
Russian people; there is an abundance of sacrificial pastors and
wise archpastors of the Church. Of course, one can always search
out the shadowy sides, but nevertheless, in the Church of Christ
the light of the Resurrected One predominates.
foretold of the post-Communist spiritual renewal not of only individual
Russian people, but exactly of the whole Church, consisting of
a believing nation, headed by ecclesiastical hierarchs. The principal
of "Sobornost" (the catholicity of the Church, her unity in diversity)
does not permit the division of her elements into independent
parts. Therefore, we are extremely grieved by the attacks of those
ecclesiastical intriguers who dare to abuse the whole Russian
Church, pointing at obvious or imaginary shortcomings of some
or other of her pastors. There are also found such libelers who
dare to call the Church in Russia things too terrible to repeat.
These blind ones are not even aware that by this censure they
are pronouncing a slander on the Holy Spirit Itself! But in this
Church there now pours a stream of miracles; new miracle-working
icons are appearing continually. Running to the mysteries of the
Church, believing people are spiritually renewed and grow. And
who produces these miracles?...
the lack of space, we leave out here predictions about Russia
by other Russian holy ones, as, for example, St. Seraphim of Sarov,
St. John of Kronstadt, elder Laurence of Chernigov, elder Anatole
of Optina ("the Younger"), Archbishop Theophan of Poltava, and
Let us remember
at least in closing that all these testified that the spiritual
regeneration in Russia will occur for a relatively short time.
For example, the Optina elder Nektary said in 1917 that "Russia
will spring up and will be materially not rich but spiritually
rich, and in Optina there will be yet seven lamps, seven pillars."
St. Laurence of Chernigov said: "In Russia there will be a blossoming
of faith and the previous rejoicing—but for a short time, for
there will come a Terrible Judge to judge the living and the dead..."
Archbishop Theophan of Poltava wrote (c. 1930): You ask me about
the near future and about the approaching last times. I do not
speak about this from myself but about that which was revealed
to me by elders. The arrival of the Antichrist comes nearer and
is already very near. The time separating us from his arrival
can be measured in years; at the most, decades. But before his
coming, Russia must be revived, although also for a short time..."
This is important
to study in connection with the ongoing talks being carried out
toward the rapprochement of the Russian Church Abroad with the
Russian Church in the motherland. Of course the process of coming
closer should not be forced, and, glory to God, the talks are
being conducted in peaceful conditions with a taking into account
of all the most important questions. Our main difficulty, and
I ask forgiveness that I repeat myself, is that we have complicated
the task of coming closer. Having explained that between us there
are no dogmatic divergences and that the conflicts of canonical
order can be eliminated by a brotherly discussion of them, it
would follow first to restore liturgical communion—if only in
part on a "case by case" basis, when the circumstances favor it.
But further on, life itself would prompt that it follows that
more be done in this direction.
But I have
been distracted from the main theme. The Pascha of Christ perceptibly
immerses us in the life-giving light of the Resurrected One. This
light illuminates our thoughts, showing us the right way, and
warms our hearts with love toward God and those near us. In a
word, we receive all that is good exactly from the life-giving
light of the Resurrected Christ. And we will walk in the Light,
living in gentleness, tenderness, in concerns one for another,
in love, so that He sees in us His beloved children, for the sake
of whom He died and resurrected. Lo, let it be!
I greet you
all, my dear ones, with the joyous day of the Resurrection of