Sermon of Archbishop Nathanael (Lvov, +1986) of Vienna and Austria
on the feast day
of St Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles
The day after tomorrow is the feast day of Holy Prince Vladimir. A great deal was said and written about him throughout the Russian diaspora twelve years ago, when we celebrated the 950th anniversary of the baptism of our people.
And yet there are still unanswered questions about him, our holy prince, the founder of Holy Russia.
Let us ask one hard question: how could the Omnipotent Lord, without Whom not a single strand of hair falls from a person’s head, allow the legacy of St Vladimir, his state of Holy Russia, to be transformed thirty years ago into its polar opposite, the kingdom of the Beast? Can we hope for and expect the rebirth of Holy Russia? And if so, when?
What is Holy Russia, and how is it bound to the name of St Vladimir?
Having received holy baptism and christening his people, St Vladimir so profoundly and actively burned with the new faith, that he wholly rebuilt his life and the life of his people. He came to belief seriously, and so his prayers, uttered during the moment that the people of Kiev were being baptized, could not have been more genuine. He knew that his prayers at that moment would be fulfilled by the Lord, no matter what he asked for.
And he asked not for glory or wealth or power for his people, but “grant, O Lord, to these people to know You, the True God. Confirm this faith within them rightly, uncorrupt, and help me, o Lord.”
This prayer determined the future of Russia: our homeland was protected from her enemies, and she broadened her holdings, strengthened the borders through the efforts of generations who served their country “from the youngest of fingernails to the last of strengths.” That is, their whole lives, not in order to make themselves or their people more powerful, glorious or rich, but to serve God’s truth, to serve Holy Orthodoxy. Everything else, power, glory and wealth, came to our people as an addendum, fulfilling the words of Christ “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Could the Lord have allowed that such a nation, built upon generations of religious exertion, turn into a state desiring no religious purpose for its existence, but setting as its goals only earthly power, glory and wealth?
Meanwhile, over recent centuries, all the currents within our country led our people and our state specifically onto the path of apostasy from serving Divine truth. And the people, the overwhelming majority, followed these alluring promises, while the voices which called them to devotion to God and His Truth faded quieter and quieter, so that the last decades before the catastrophe, no one in civil life paid them any heed at all, though these voices thundered from the greatest of miracle-workers in the Russian land, Fr John of Kronstadt, and from the mouths of the teachers of the Church, and Metropolitan Anthony, equal in intellect to the ancient fathers of the Church.
The Lord could not allow inner falsehood to abide: the gradual, unnoticeable, painless mutation of an Orthodox Sovereignty into a civil state without faith or truth.
So the Lord allowed that in our Homeland the forces of evil, tempting the peoples of the world, expanded instantly and exposed its Satanic essence, lies and cruelty. Established through holy podvig, Russia could not stop halfway, tempted by external pleasure. She proceeded to the end of the road, lured by anti-Christian forces, and exposed to the end the bloody barbarism and deceit of this path.
As always, the Lord permitted evil to be revealed in order that people who behold it would turn away in disgust from the face of evil and would rush to Divine light.
Has this plan of God been manifested within the Russian people?
Yes, to some degree. We know that among Russian people there is a fervent, mighty and universal sense of repulsion to the forces of evil which has taken them captive.
But there, in our homeland, the very same evil power hinders the expression of this salvific revulsion from evil.
That is why the position of the free elements of the Russian people is so especially responsible, those who live in exile and can express their free will. The Lord is testing us to see if the Russian nation is capable of moral rebirth.
But do we, living in the emigration, have what the Lord seeks from us: firstly, the uncompromising, incorruptible revulsion from the false and brutal image of Satan looming in our Homeland, and secondly, the desire to build our life and that of our entire people on the foundations which have eternal, unchanging value, for the sake of which our Homeland was created and for the sake of which God gave her power and wealth?
Alas, we lack both one and the other.
There are great movements within our midst which do not turn away from evil. Twenty-three years ago—only seven years after we fled our Homeland—when the blood of our brothers and sisters, killed before our very eyes, had not yet dried, great masses of Russian emigres, both clerical and social and political, despite the words of that holy man who called for devotion to Holy Russia before the Revolution, compromised with the Satanic forces, to “loyalty to the Soviet state,” to “recognizing her successes,” and refused to fight. And similar moral failure happened again and again.
Moreover, we did not fulfill the second condition upon which the Lord can grant us mercy. Here, in exile, the social and political ideals we are called upon by our leaders and which large swaths of our emigration follow, retain the same lay, unreligious and uninspired ideals which lack eternal significance, true meaning and value.
Just as the Russian people did not follow those who called upon them before the Revolution to service to God and His Truth, so do they not follow in any noticeable way those voices in exile.
Can the Lord have mercy upon us under these conditions?
Of course He cannot. If the Lord could allow that Holy Rus became a spiritless lay state, then how could He allow the triumph of social and political currents which continue—even after all that we endured—to worship these dead idols, the lifeless and blind gods. To hand over the legacy of St Vladimir, which he laid down and built up by the efforts wrought by his successors in the name of God, to these empty movements, would be unfair to him and all those generations of Russians who constructed our government to serve God’s truth—and not self-satisfaction and well-being.
The path to rebirth, to acquiring Divine mercy, lies in returning to the path of St Vladimir, in making the goal of our lives to see the Truth of God in particular, in our personal, social and political lives, and to build everything else upon this truth.