NEW YORK: June 9, 2007
Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus on the Day of All Russian Saints
Dear in the Lord Fathers, Brothers, Sisters and Children!
Today the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of our holy compatriots, those who devoted their lives to serving God and neighbor.
To be a believer is to confess ones faith through deeds of love for God and for neighbor. The entire host of saints whom we celebrate today served as examples of such faith “which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6). In faith is the blessedness of the Christian. To acquire faith is a treasure in and of itself: man cannot believe in the mercy of God without making the decision to serve not himself, but God and his neighbor. Love for others begins with the belief that repentance and requited love are possible within them. “He who says ‘I love God' yet hates his brother is a liar,” says Apostle John the Theologian.
Guided by the testament of love and resolving to satisfaction all questions which hindered the fullness of brotherly communion within the one Russian Orthodox Church, our Synod of Bishops, following the decision of the Council of Bishops of May of last year, finally confirmed the Act of Canonical Communion and decided to send a delegation to Moscow to participate in the celebrations of the reestablishment of church unity. What we experienced on this holiday in Christ the Savior Cathedral on the day of the Ascension of the Lord, reminded me of the joy felt by the “author of the canons,” St Theophanes, on the reconciliation that the Church achieved at the 7 th Ecumenical Council, when the Church of Christ defeated iconoclasm. “Let us and all the faithful cry aloud and leap with joy today; How marvelous are Thy works, O Christ! How great is Thy might! For Thou hast made us of one mind and brought about our agreement," writes St Theophanes in the first ode on the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Further in the same ode we read: “Seeing the great blessing we have received: how the divided members of Christ have been brought to unity, let us clap our hands for joy and praise God who has granted us peace!” This joy was felt by those who awaited this day with trepidation, this day “that the Lord hath created,” as did those who joined our pilgrimage with doubts.
Besides the joint prayer in Christ the Savior Cathedral, we prayed in Moscow at the relics of St Tikhon, All-Russian Patriarch and Confessor, who is so dear to the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; during the great consecration of a new church built on the site of mass executions in Butovo; at the burial place of the Moscow Hierarchs in the ancient Uspensky Cathedral in the Kremlin, where His Eminence Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky) of blessed memory loved to serve; in Kiev, at the crypt of Holy Hieromartyr Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky) and the holy fathers of the Near and Far Cave of Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra; in Pochaev, where St Job and the Abbot of our monastic brethren, Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) labored; and on the site of the appearance of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. In each of these holy places we raised our prayers for our archpastors and pastors, for the parishioners of our Church, for our families and our children. To these prayers we added the prayer which never ceased in every single church of the Russian diaspora throughout the terrible godless years—the prayer for the much-suffering Russian people.
Our ancestors gave us our love for the holy sites and holy things of our Fatherland—they are not just monuments to the past. They are bound with the fate of living persons, and today, as in the past, the people of God in Russia live in sacrifice, with faith and with love they are now restoring these holy places, they build churches and monasteries, they strive to follow in the footsteps of those whom we remember today.
Our love cannot be directed only at the past—it must live and act in the present itself, in the time and place where the Lord has put to serve Him and our neighbor.
Dear in the Lord fathers, brothers, sisters and children, before us lies the difficult and thorny path of confirming and strengthening our church unity through the confession of our faith—turning our faith into good works and deeds, manifesting in life the legacy of our holy ancestors, building our Fatherland and calling others towards serving God and our people. The Lord calls us to eternal life, where His peace and His love reign. But in order to enter this blessed existence, we must here, on earth, achieve unity, understanding, trust, brotherhood and love for all.
“Fear not,” teaches St Efrem the Syrian, “to set out upon the good path which leads to Life.” May they not fear, those who do not doubt the decisions of the Hierarchy, nor those who have left the Church, remembering that the strong and omnipotent Hand of God guides us, protecting us from all crises and dangers. Let us protect ourselves with the “food for the soul,” what the Holy Fathers called humility. Holy Hierarch Philaret (Drozdov, +1867) of Moscow, whose remains lie in Christ the Savior Cathedral, considered humility the “salt of good deeds,” for just as salt strengthens the flavor of food, so does humility strengthen a person in his good works. Without humility, the spiritual podvigi of man disintegrate in pride, in self-importance, in aggravation, and they lose their value. An example of this is the Pharisee who had no humility and thus rendered meaningless all his other good deeds (Luke 18:11, 12). So let us pray the Lord that He teach humility to those who brothers and sisters who have left us, not for their Phariseeism and for their unlawful departure from their Hierarchy, but towards obedience to the Church, towards devotion, patience, peace-making, striving for Him, and for love. “But to this man will I look,” said the Lord, “even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word (Isaiah 66:2).
Let us pray, beloved in the Lord pastors and flock of the Russian Church Abroad, to all those whom we celebrate today, who joined their faith in Christ in this life with love and podvigi, so that through their prayers we all may overcome the sin which defeats us, and that we inherit the eternal life of bliss. Amen.
With love in the Lord, and a plea for your prayers,
+ Metropolitan Laurus
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
2 nd Sunday of Pentecost 2007