MOSCOW: July 27, 2013
Epistle of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to Archpastors, Clerics, Monastics and Laity on the 1025th Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia
Adopted at a session of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox on July 16, 2013 (Journal No. 69).
Beloved in the Lord Eminent Archpastors, Honorable Presbyters and Deacons,
God-loving Monks and Nuns, Dear Brothers and Sisters:
This year we remember a great event, the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. In the distant tenth century, Rus, through the efforts of Holy Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostle, adopted the Christian faith and culture from Byzantium, making a spiritual and civilized choice which determined the vector of the historic development of our peoples.
In the words of Metropolitan Ilarion of Kiev, "the grace of the faith spread throughout the land and reached our Russian people... Our Benevolent God blessed all the nations, and did not disdain our people, having so desired, He saved us, and brought us to the wisdom of Truth."
Over the last 1025 years, there have been both glorious and tragic events. Faith in Christ was absorbed by our ancestors and brought forth bountiful fruits, but this took place in very difficult circumstances. Many tried to divert the peoples of Rus from Orthodoxy. Conquerors from the West and from the East made such attempts, as well as people who tried to establish an "ideal" society on earth without God, against His eternal commandment. But the people who adopted the Christian faith showed their dedication to the Savior more than once. They were able to return to Him even after apostasies imposed by brutal persecutors. Despite their "meek boldness," the hearts and souls of many of our compatriots are sanctified by the truth of Christ. Preserving this truth and building upon it personal and social life is our duty and spiritual necessity.
We must learn the lessons of the past. Chief among these is: the edifice of our civilization cannot exist without the foundation of the Gospel upon which it was erected. Today, many propose that we build our life without God. Freedom is now described as following any random desires, including those which are externally inspired within a person. This conception of freedom reaches its limits when it begins to threaten natural human sensibility within a person, and his duty towards his neighbor, and finally, the very possibility of speaking the truth and acting in accordance with his conscience.
Nations that lose the ethic of self-limitation and service to God, the Fatherland and neighbor lose their spiritual strength, they become weak and vulnerable, inviting the danger of extinction and the sad prospect of losing their place to other, spiritually-stronger nations. We must understand this clearly and not follow the path of perdition, remembering the words of the prophet: " Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jeremiah 6:16 ).
Today's world is faced with many catastrophes: crime, terrorism, increase in suicides, abortions and broken families, alcoholism and drug abuse, the destruction of the environment and social injustice, abandonment and spiritual suffering among many. Overcoming these misfortunes is possible only upon the path of renewed faith in God, Who is ready to grant the forgiveness of sins and graceful aid for new life both to individuals and to entire nations. The Baptism of Rus is a life-giving wellspring feeding us even now, and granting the strength to create life to the heir nations of historic Rus, upon the foundation of eternal values received by us from God and uniting us with spiritual bonds. These values and the world-view they provide have been openly displayed in the culture of our peoples, including the visual arts, architecture, literature, education, family and institutional life, our attitude towards nature and a great deal more which forms the commonality of the single spiritual expanse of the inheritors of Holy Rus.
A quarter century has passed since the beginning of the rebirth of the Russian Church. During these years, tens of thousands of churches have been reestablished, and hundreds of monasteries, church activity in many areas has been renewed and well-founded. Emerging as a powerful and moral factor in the existence of our peoples, the Orthodox Faith became the legacy of millions of people. One must aver with humility that world history has not known such a grand and rapid religious rebirth as has occurred on the territory of Historic Rus over the last 25 years. We lift our earnest gratitude to God, Who is the Lord of history, for the mercy He has bestowed upon our peoples; we offer heartfelt thanks to all those who labored to repond to Divine Grace and made this all possible.
Still, there is much to do, for the Lord awaits from us new fruits. The greatest of these is for our compatriots to stand unified in faith and life, to confirm the Gospel truth in word and deed.
We recall how over the course of history, the fates of nations spiritually born in the Kievan baptismal font developed differently. In the past they lived in a unified state stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea, from Galicia to the Volga. In other periods, some of these nations found themselves under foreign rule, as parts of other states. For a long time, we lived together in one huge country, and now, we live in several sovereign states. But our spiritual unity has always existed, and even to this day, preserved by the grace-filled power of God and by the unity of our moral ideal, preached by and preserved within the Russian Orthodox Church.
Nations in whom the Holy Orthodox Faith has taken root are called upon, by the teaching of St Sergius of Radonezh, "beholding the Holy Trinity, to overcome the hateful enmity of this world," and serve as an example of fraternity and mutual aid for all of mankind. Holy Rus will live so long as it is devoted to the choice made by Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles, so long as it preserves its spiritual unity, while it remembers and prayerfully venerates our common saints. And if we preserve this common legacy and spiritual relationship, we have a future.
May God, through the prayers of all the Russian saints, grant that we strengthen in truth upon which everything was created, and we believe will continue to build the lives of our nations.