“Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth” (Psalms 119:142)
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
It is this Divine righteousness and truth that we will discuss, beloved in the Lord brothers and sisters. By God’s mercy, I have the opportunity for the second time to conduct divine services in this church, which not long ago was a prayer house of another Christian confession. Through the selfless labors of a small group of Russian believers, this house was turned into an Orthodox church in only a month.
Adults and young people—and even children—took part in the establishment of this church, which has become a place of abode for God’s Glory, where the Bloodless Sacrifice of Christ is brought forth. Many of you already made your confessions here, you have cleansed your soul through repentance and were rewarded the great joy of unifying with Christ by partaking of Holy Communion. The Orthodox Christian, the true believer, must firmly know that when he partakes of Communion, he is not consuming a mere bit of bread and wine, as our religious thinker Khomyakov wrote, but the true Body and genuine Blood of Christ Himself.
In this temple, during Passion Week and its exceptionally meaningful services, we experienced together with Christ His sufferings on the Cross, His death and burial and the Light-bearing night of the Resurrection of Christ, joyfully exclaiming “Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!” Early last month we performed the minor consecration of this church, and beholding the Orthodox cross being erected on its roof, earnestly sang “Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify.” It was an unforgettable moment.
A month has gone by since that ceremony, and as the new month begins, this Orthodox temple is already celebrating the feast day of its Heavenly Intercessor, Holy Great Martyr and Victory-Bearer George. Today we continue this celebration and glorify the memory of one of the greatest hero martyrs, fearlessly and bravely enduring the cruelest sufferings for his devotion to Christ. Disdaining his own high position at the court of Emperor Diocletian and refusing all honor and glory of this world, he boldly took the side of the Christians, whom Diocletian mercilessly persecuted.
St George bravely lifted his voice against the persecutors, and through torture, suffering and death left us a legacy of remaining true to Christ, no matter what temptations and brutality from the new persecutors of Christ lie in our own path today. He instructs us to firmly stand upon the unbreakable rock of faith. May then the propaganda of atheists not affect us, even as they don the garments of scholars and offer us new hypotheses and pseudo-scientific theories of the origins of spiritual life on earth.
Let us not fear the continuing struggle against religion, and especially against Christianity. Just as violence cannot kill the creative thought, so is it even more impossible to destroy faith in God, to destroy the innate striving of the human soul for Truth, Goodness and Beauty. May we not despair at the departure of the feeble from Christ and from His Church. This is nothing but the removal of the chaff from the wheat, and the clearing of the threshing-floor. May our faith not be shaken when before our very eyes, openly and deliberately, the Christian spirit is being poisoned and watered down in all aspects of life, from literature, radio and theater, and now television. This disease, this infection, shall pass. Everything shall pass, only truth will remain, Divine Truth, the Righteousness of Christ.
Finally, may we not be wrathful and aggravated by the mad calls of the godless atheists that “There is no God,” “God is dead.” Religious sensibility has died within these people, their inborn human striving for God has atrophied. These people have fallen into spiritual poverty, and in order to hide the nakedness of their soul, they exclaim that God is dead. People come to seek God when they peer at their own lives. God must not be sought in interplanetary space, like one of the cosmonauts had recently stated, who found no God, no angel in outer space. God must be sought in our own hearts, within our own faith. Temptations abound all around us, but we are free not to succumb to them!
We must turn to God and live in Him. If some consider faith to be madness, or feeble-mindedness, let them consider the words of Apostle Paul: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). In the life and spiritual struggles of St George the Victory-Bearer, we find instruction on the path of a true follower of Christ. Sorrowful and burdensome, brothers and sisters, is the path of the Christian who lives only by God’s righteousness, who places Divine Truth above mortal truth. The higher the person ascends, the more responsible is he before himself, before his conscience and before God. It is especially difficult and important for a pastor in our exceptionally difficult times. “Oh, you’re a priest… Oh, you go to church often… why did you do this and that, why don’t you do otherwise?” It is surprising to see how people who are particularly distant from any kind of perfection see very well what true perfection looks like in others.
But, brothers and sisters, no one can deem himself to be sinless. “In sin did my mother conceive me,” and “from my youth many passions do war against me.” No one can consider himself sinless, not a layperson, not a pastor—even though the latter is given the authority to “bind and loose” sin, even though in the holiest moment of his service he dares to call upon the Holy Spirit, Who transforms bread into the Body of Christ and wine into Blood.
A saint once had prayed that he could see his own sinfulness. When the entire abyss of his human misery and sin was revealed to him, he recoiled from this black pit and beseeched God to hide from him this intolerable vision.
That is why those who truly believe in God do not judge anyone. If even they did not know the Gospel law: “judge not, lest ye be judged,” they would not judge nor condemn, for they know that if a person is righteous, then he will judge himself more harshly than anyone else. But if the accused is an unrepentant sinner, then the Lord God shall judge him much more severely than any man.
Under Divine Judgment, any human judgment is but the rustle of a blade of grass before a bolt of thunder. And for this reason, true Christians have no interest in judging others. They deem that such judgment has no sense, and brings harm to everyone including themselves. Divine Truth, of course, is more severe than human righteousness. But God’s love is also much broader than human love. This is why God’s Truth saves man, while human truth often wounds and even kills. What conclusion can we then draw from this?
We must not be angered no matter how harshly—fairly or unfairly—others accuse us. Nothing is done outside the will of the Lord. Tribulations purify us, they humble us and lift us spiritually. It is the duty of every Christian, especially pastors and archpastors and people of high rank to direct their gaze inwards. And remembering our duty before God, we must not by any deed or action, nor by any word, dare to tempt the “little ones” to sin, for the Judgment is dread for those who do.
Always heed your conscience and bring it in accordance with the desires and demands of God’s Righteousness and Divine Law. To be true to God and His Truth first and foremost, and not succumb to the degrading temptations of the spirit of the times, when Christ once again is crucified, when false Christs appear, donning the bright clothing of the righteous. Let us allow no compromise with those who rule the world in our wicked times, who battle against God and attempt to kill His Truth and Righteousness. Let us be humble, meek, long-suffering and merciful. Let us observe at least a little of this, for then these songs from church will become vivid and effective for us: “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.” May God’s peace be with you all! Amen.
April 23/May 6, 1966