Sermon of Archbishop Paul (Pavlov, +1995) on the Feast Day of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia
To hear the Russian-language sermon of Archbishop Paul of Australia and New Zealand of blessed memory, click here.
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!
On November 1, 1981, a most great event maybe even global is scale took place at the Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign” in New York: the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia glorified—that is, canonized as part of the host of saints—the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, who suffered in our tormented Homeland during the great persecution upon the Church for their faith, a persecution the world had never before seen.
From all the countries of the Russian diaspora, the limitless expanses of the United States and Canada, from the nations of Europe and South America and even Australia, Russian people traveled to New York in order to participate in this great celebration.
We, the Russian Church Abroad, glorified the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors not because they were in need of such recognition. For even without our glorification they “received from God the eternal crowns through their suffering.” But we glorified them in order to bear witness before the entire world of their podvig and their faith, to confess our love for them, and to state that we are spiritually united with them, that we are in need of their help and prayerful intercession.
For over sixty years, the faith of Christ in our Fatherland has been subjected to terrible persecutions and torments. Before the persecutors’ broad sweep and brutality, even the cruelty of Nero and Diocletian pales in comparison. In truth, these martyrs and confessors number in the millions, having been subjected to horrifying execution, torture and torment for refusing to renounce Christ either in word or in deed, and did not submit to the Satanic ideology which dares to try to occupy the human soul in place of religion.
There is not one corner of Russia that has not been soaked in the blood of martyrs. When during the sessions of the Council of Bishops we read the lists of names of such glorious confessors, we heard but brief outlines of their suffering and deaths, but our hearts and souls shuddered with horror from the wickedness of the inhumane, brutal torturers. Truly, there is no horrible suffering, no degradation, no refined method of torture and Satanic mockery that they did not endure for their faith.
This bloody list is horrifying. But it bears witness before the whole world that the Church and faith live on in Russia, and that the faith is not spent, that belief is strong in our people, a people who have been able through this terrible time to produce such heroes of spirit! This list includes members of all classes of people, from the Tsar-Martyr and his Family to the least of commoners; from representatives of the supreme hierarchs, beginning with His Holiness the Patriarch, and ending with the simple monk and church volunteer.
O, Great Martyrs and Confessors of Russia! We piously and lovingly fall to your feet and thankfully kiss your wounds, we praise before the entire world your holy spiritual achievements!
O, Great Martyrs and Confessors of Russia! We lovingly fall to your feet and boldly praise your holy podvigi before the whole world. With gratitude we kiss your holy wounds, for when faith waned in our Homeland and in the hearts of our people, you strengthened them with your confession. When all love was extinguished, it was for the sake of love that you sacrificed yourself to torture and death. When hope faltered, you strengthened it with your hope. In the years of your terrible torments, you showed us the path of Truth, showing us that we cannot for the sake of ostensibly “saving” the Church embark upon the path of compromise with atheists. Through your podvigi and examples, you showed us that the Church is not to be saved, but that salvation lies within the Church, for else wherein is Christ Himself?
The atheists could not kill faith in our Fatherland. In the place of those tortured to death and executed for Christ are thousands and thousands of new confessors and ascetics, who fearlessly bear witness to their aspiration before the persecutors, denouncing their madness. Their voices, despite the Iron Curtain, reach us even now. They have more than once beseeched us, who aer their brethren living abroad, to glorify the Martyrs and Confessors of Russia before the whole world. And when they heard that the Russian Church Abroad was preparing to perform this greatest of historical acts, their souls rejoiced, they pleaded with us not to delay in this holy matter, for therein lies the foundation of the spiritual rebirth of Russia. They wrote to us that the glorification of the New Martyrs will open up Heaven, and by their prayers, Divine Grace that saves souls will pour forth upon the much-suffering Russian land, a Grace that gives new life to all, cleansing all and leading to renewed life.
We have heeded their pleas and performed the canonization, despite all obstacles set before us by opponents of this great act. By God’s mercy, it has taken place. The great, providential event has occurred. We are not even yet able to comprehend and grasp the colossal consequences which may result!
Through this act of canonization, we drew a clear line which places some on the side of the New Martyrs and Confessors, and others together with the persecutors and murderers. We have placed upon the conscience of the world the question: Whose side are you on?
As far as we are concerned, dear brothers and sisters, let us not forget that canonizing the New Martyrs means to spiritually commune of their podvig, and follow their examples in our own lives.
And so let us follow them! Having before us such a great host of witnesses, martyrs and confessors, let us cast off the sin that stains us, as Apostle Paul said, so that the canonization we have performed would serve as a spiritual reawakening for us. Amen.