The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate
Interviews Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York,
Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
From the Editors: As we approach the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Vladyka Hilarion grants an interview to the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate.
-Your Eminence, you recently called the reunification of the two parts of the Russian Church “the greatest good.” What fruits has reconciliation brought forth that you deem most important? What has changed in the life of the Church Abroad in the last five years?
I immediately remember the words of the first troparion of the Triumph of Orthodoxy: “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.” And also “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!” The first fruits are the unity of mind, concord, peace and joy in the miracle God has wrought. It is interesting to note that the first word with which the Lord addressed His followers, having risen from the dead, was “Rejoice.” The second phrase was “Peace be unto you.” This blessed peace and grace-filled joy has been bestowed upon us, by Divine mercy, which reestablished the fullness of brotherly communion within our Mother, the Local Russian Orthodox Church.
The joint celebration of Divine Liturgy and communing of God is the main fruit of the reestablishment of unity. During Divine Liturgy we hear the words: “And grant that with one mouth and one heart we may praise Thine all-honorable and majestic name.” This bears witness to the fact that during Divine Liturgy, our prayers and thoughts must piously concentrate on one thing. This state of mind of those who celebrate the service, those helping them and the faithful forms a powerful bond. Thank God, all the children of our Russian Orthodox Church are now merging with this unifying and strengthening current.
As a result, we have attained mutual understanding, brotherly interaction and cooperation in good works, which has greatly eased the bearing of our common cross of salvific service to God and mankind.
Over the last five years, the archpastors, clergymen and flock of our Church have actively begun to emerge from our isolation during the years of separation, and to share our most wealthy legacy, handed down to us by our fathers, who humbly bore the cross of exile and, being scattered throughout the world, yet preserving the Russian Church outside of her canonical territory, declaring the truth about her sufferings and martyrs. As a result, many not only grew interested in the history, legacy and mission of the Russian Church Abroad, but have joined with our church. I am especially happy to accept clergymen from various schismatic groups who have grown tired of the Phariseeism, the politics, anger and conflicts, seeking a Gospel life in Christ and communion with the spirit of piety within the holiness of the Russian Orthodox Church.
-What challenges do you still face as a result of the reunification?
Pastoral attention must be paid to those who doubt the benefit of reestablished unity, but remain in the Church, which is very praiseworthy, and attention is also due to those who have turned away from the Church and have joined schismatics.
The latter must be lovingly and kindly brought to the truth, towards the beauty and benefit of ecclesiastical unity. For there is a fairly great difference between heresiarchs and teachers of schism and their followers. Forgive me, but the former, out of pride and other mortal sins, will hardly bring repentance and lay aside their new titles, their awards, etc. Meanwhile, the latter are simply lost, having insufficient information or having little strength to overcome their psychological barriers. It is these people we must work with. But how? Thank God, my unworthiness as well as many clergymen and laypersons of the canonical Russian Church Abroad have opportunities in our daily lives to speak to these people who have not accepted the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church. A Gospel-centered approach to them, with understanding, readiness for dialog and sober words about the joys of the present situation in the Church, and any problems, will aid in our reconciliation.
As far as those who have remained within the bosom of the Church but still doubt the benefit of the unity we have achieved, we see fewer and fewer of them. But they must also be approached carefully, like those who left, but they must also be praised for their patristic dedication to the unity of the Church of Christ.
We must always remember that the Church is a Divine and a human organism. Everyone is called to commune with God. Here we can meet Him and develop a personal relationship with Him through prayer, fasting, the Mysteries and church life. Here, too, we also see human failings, passions and errors, which can repulse those who are weak in faith. In any case, perfect order will only be found in the Church Triumphant, that is, in Heaven, where all problems are already overcome. In the Church Militant, we must lovingly and patiently fight with our fallen human nature, overcoming evil, pride and division in the relationship between the servants and flock of the Church.
- What do you consider to be the problems in strengthening and developing Church life?
In order to properly approach the strengthening and development of church life, it is necessary to properly organize service, administration and preaching, then to activate them, actively performing “the walking among the people,” as St Theophan the Recluse wrote. In this stage of history we must concentrate on educating and bringing people into church life, that is, acquainting them with the richness of the spiritual culture of Orthodoxy, the Church and Holy Russia. His Holiness the Patriarch is right when he stresses the need for this work, for this is a matter of life and death!
“To churchify one’s life,” wrote Archbishop Averky (Taushev, +1976), the predecessor of Metropolitan Laurus as abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, “means to make oneself a living member of the Church, to consciously participate in the common life of the Church as in the Body of Christ, which is a whole spiritual organism, and to build one’s life in full concordance with this consciousness.” Departing from the Church, of course, will undoubtedly lead one to “lose the savor of his salt,” and, in the words of Christ the Savior, will become “good for nothing and be cast out and trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13).
That is why we, servants and flock of the Church, wholeheartedly desiring her strengthening and development, must organize and activate ourselves, with kind word and the example of a life of beauty churchify our neighbors, so that they receive also eternal salvation prepared by the grace of God and enrich the spiritual experience of the nations of the Russian world.
- Last year, the Russian Orthodox Church had much discussion about the language of divine services. What languages are used in the parishes and monasteries of the Church Abroad today? What role does Church Slavonic play, and what languages are used in the sermons of your priests?
I must say that the diaspora clings dearly not only to Church Slavonic but to the Russian language, since many who find themselves far from their Homeland strive to preserve their roots and maintain living bonds with the divine services and traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the homes of our believers, for instance, parents speak Russian to their children, preserve their Russian Orthodox traditions, and parishes organize parish schools. There are parishes that only use Church Slavonic, and sermons and other church activity are in Russian. There are a great many of these, of course, since this holds great educational importance, but there are a multitude of parishes, too, which need to conduct services and preach in two languages, Church Slavonic and the local tongue. There are missionary communities within the bosom of our Church, too, in which they use exclusively the local dialect. In any case, it all depends on the circumstances and composition of the monastics or parishioners.
As far as preachers are concerned, there is no one I would point to in particular. Every priest tries to the best of his abilities to bring to the people the Word of God and make his contribution to the work of serving the Church. Some are good sermonizers from the ambo and spiritual discussions with their parishioners, others are able to console and support their flock, guiding their confessions, still others are able with their personal example to inspire people to a life of righteousness.
-Some bishops and priests of the Church Abroad are participating in the Inter-Council Presence. What do you think of your representatives playing a role?
I am happy that our Church has delegates in this important task. This attests to the fact that the experience of our service in the difficult circumstances abroad can be useful to such an important ecclesiastical task.
- The year 2013 will mark the 400th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty. Are any celebrations planned in the Church Abroad? How do you view this jubilee as it relates to the Holy Royal Passion-bearers?
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia canonized the Holy Righteous Royal Passion-bearers together with the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in 1981. I believe that it was soon after that that positive changes began in Russia, specifically as a result of the prayers of her Martyrs, whose blood is called “the seed of the Church.” So in our difficult time it is probably necessary to connect the approaching 400th anniversary of the House of Romanovs with the proper celebration of the podvig and memory of the Royal Passion-bearers, in order to strengthen and renew the powers of the Church and her people.
I think that we must take advantage of this opportunity, that every child of the Russian Orthodox Church once again pays heed to our edifying history and ponders its inimitable figures. I am preparing to propose to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to require the commemoration of the Holy Royal Passion-bearers during the dismissal of all divine services next year; to mandate the marking of the date of the podvig of the last Royal Family at all gatherings of clergymen, youth conferences, parish schools and at all special events devoted to this anniversary.
The memory of the sufferings of the Royal Passion-bearers must awaken within the hearts of Russians their enthusiastic veneration, the like of which will prevent them from any compromises with the enemies of the Church and of Holy Russia, and especially any betrayal of Orthodoxy, and it will weave a wreath of eternal glory to the martyrs both here on earth and in the Kingdom of Heaven before the Divine Throne.