Archbishop Averky

A Corner of Holy Russia

The day of the Pentecost, or the day of the Trinity, as it is known among our people, is the feast day of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. A great number of worshipers always gathers at the monastery on this holiday—usually several hundred from all over North America, in recent years, many have traveled from Canada as well as California, and frequently from South America and Europe. Not unheard of also are visitors from Australia and New Zealand. Their impressions from what they see and hear at the monastery, beginning with the divine services according to the ustav [monastic rule] and from their contact with the daily life of the brethren and contact with them, inspired these visitors to grant Holy Trinity Monastery an expressive epithen: "A Corner of Holy Russia," a name that has spread throughout the Russian diaspora.

Of course, this is high praise for the monastery, which must encourage the brethren not to pride themselves, but to try with all their might to become worthy of the designation. This label also clearly shows what believing Russians scattered throughout the whole world see as the main value of Holy Trinity Monastery.

Here they see the spirit, tongue and traditions of old Russian monasteries, which at one time adorned our homeland, Holy Russia. Holy Russia is not a dream, not a fiction, as some enemies of our Orthodox fatherland purport, and even some "Ivans-who-forgot-their-family," along with hostile foreigners. Holy Russia was, she lived and continues to exist in the souls of many Russians who did not abandon their Russian names, nor anything holy from their Russian past. This is not sinful "nationalism" or "mere politics," alien to the Church and to religious life, as some false wise men today teach, rejecting the right of the Russian Church to exist outside the borders of our fatherland, enslaved now by brutal atheists. Morbid and truly sinful nationalism, often called "chauvinism," was always profoundly alien to the soul of every true Russian Orthodox person. Love for Russia, for the Russian people, for our centuries-old history is closely bound with love for the true Christian faith—Holy Orthodoxy, which bred the Russian people and gave them the truly great Orthodox culture, which the finest, most lofty-minded individuals throughout the world venerate. The Russian person, ever since the days of the Illuminator, Holy Grand Duke Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles, so deeply absorbed the Orthodox faith into his heart that for him "Orthodoxy" and "Russianness" became virtually synonymous. It was the careless, overt rush towards the West, which had long ago fallen away from Orthodoxy, that caused the fatal crack in the consciousness of the Russian person, and finally led to the bloody disaster which befell the Russian Land.

The scattering of the Russian people throughout the world, of course, is providential. Only now has the West begun to become acquainted with the holy Orthodox faith and the Church from Russian ÎmigrÎs who have not lost their faith and did not abandon their Russian Church in distant lands. And here we see with great joy the acceptance of Orthodoxy by foreigners and those of other religions. Yet here also is a great danger which is important to remember and guard against.

The main good deed of the Orthodox Christian faith is humility. So in order to become truly Orthodox—in spirit, and not just formally—Orthodoxy must be accepted with humility, not with a feeling of one's own "goodness," not by puffing up one's worth with egotism; on the contrary, with the recognition of one's own nothingness, one's own profound sinfulness and with the earnest desire to learn, so that one could become Orthodox not only in name but in spirit. For this, one must immerse oneself in the true spirit of Orthodoxy—unmodernized, unreformed, true Orthodoxy.

This is difficult for those people of other nations who accept Orthodoxy, since they were born, educated and lived their entire lives in an entirely different environment, possessing another spirit more or less alien to Orthodoxy. This is why for a foreigner converting to Orthodoxy, it is very important not only to refrain from derogating the thousand-year history of Russian Orthodox culture with its language and daily life, but on the contrary, to study it and draw nearer to it. For remaining locked within one's own national culture, and remaining aloof from Orthodox culture and daily life, he cannot learn about Orthodoxy and cannot become truly Orthodox in spirit, which is the most important thing, because Orthodoxy is not simply a set of bare dogmatic truths, but spirit and life, as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught about His Divine teachings (John 6:63). Here it is very important to note what a powerful positive effect Russian culture can have: many foreigners who become interested in Russian culture and study it approached Orthodoxy and themselves often became Orthodox—and very zealously, even more than many Russians today.

And the reverse is true: the Russian Orthodox Christian who loses his "Russianness" often loses his Orthodoxy, easily betraying it and taking on another religion, or losing his faith altogether, which we have often come to see abroad. Those who have lost their identity in other countries, who lost their Russian "face," melding with their environment, either abandon the Orthodox Church completely or preserve only a purely formal adherence to it, becoming more or less alien to the Holy Orthodox faith, its spirit, its centuries-old norms, customs and traditions.

It is very characteristic also that foreigners who convert to Orthodoxy and study Russian Orthodox culture with condescension, with the feeling that they, non-Russians, can dispense with it, often end up straying, inventing their own "Orthodoxy" and creating "sects" in which nothing Orthodox remains except the name. Such instances are well known to us.

As a result of all of the above, it is exceedingly important for us to preserve our Holy Trinity Monastery, specifically as a "corner of Holy Russia," for if it ceases to be that, eventually nothing of Orthodoxy will be left either, and it will truly be as "salt that has lost its savor." May this never be!

But the danger is great! The elder brethren who still remember our old Holy Russia and keep the spirit of Russian Orthodox culture to one degree or another are growing old and weak and are departing for the other world, and there are few to replace them, too few for the great internal and external mission which Holy Trinity Monastery selflessly performs, seeking not its own interests and benefits, seeking only the victory of the true faith and of the Church in today's godless world—it strives for the triumph of Holy Orthodoxy, the only thing our monks selflessly and wholeheartedly strive for.

Now on this, our great feast day, we turn to all the Russian Orthodox people for whom our holy Orthodox faith is dear with the fervent appeal to join the ranks of our clerical warriors fighting for holy Orthodoxy, to fill the ranks of our monastic brethren, who possess true zeal for the glory of God, for Christ our Savior and the true faith in Christ and good will; selflessly, "not seeking their own," to serve our Holy Church, the true Orthodox Church, in the midst of this horrifying spiritual darkness which is enveloping the entire modern world.

From Iz poucheniya na prazdnik Svyatoy Troitsy [Sermons on the Feast Day of the Holy Trinity] (1975)