Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) on Equal-to-the-Apostles Olga and Vladimir
Today, the Russian Orthodox Church prayerfully commemorates the Grand Duchess
Olga, who was the first convert to Christianity on the Russian Land, even before the baptism of Rus. Many followed her example, and even then, the Christian faith began to spread to
Russia. That is why the Church calls Blessed Princess Olga Equal-to-the-Apostles.
This is celebrated today, and in a few days we will honor the memory of the Holy Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles, the grandson of Princess Olga, whom the Church calls the Enlightener of Russia, because under him all of Russia turned to Christ and were baptized.
The Holy Apostle Paul, when he wrote to the first Christians in one of his Epistles, said:
"You shine like lights in the world!" Christians were so different from the normal life of the world around them that they shone like the sun amidst the darkness and amid the corruption of the Gentiles. We have in Russia the Holy Princess Olga and Holy Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles, who showed the Russian people how baptism and the Christian faith makes man a new creature indeed.
From history we know that Princess Olga, before her baptism, was a wise ruler, but cruel and merciless to her enemies. We know how brutally she dealt with her political opponents when she avenged the murder of her husband, Prince Igor. But when she was baptized she became a model of Christian virtues for all those who knew her.
It was the same with her sovereign grandson, Prince Vladimir, who, undoubtedly, was a depraved prince before his baptism. And when he was baptized, he changed so much that the grateful and loving people called him "Vladimir the Beautiful Sun." Because, indeed, he shone upon his people like the sun, and illuminated and warmed them. He shone with the light of true faith, and warmed him even more with his mercy.
And so it was at one time. In ancient ages, Christians were very different from the world that
surrounded them. Is it possible to say this about us? What are we, are we luminaries shining to the world? After all, we see that Orthodox people completely, both in their way of life, and in fact in everything, merge with the surrounding non-Orthodox world, and it is difficult to know whether a given person is Orthodox or not. Yet before it was immediately clear from his behavior that he really was an Orthodox Christian.
The Great Elder Ambrose of Optina, one of the greatest righteous men of the Russia Land, said in the 19th century: "What times have come upon us now? Previously, a person, for example, will repent, receiving forgiveness of sins, and it becomes clear in his continuing life that he did not repent in vain, he did not confess for naught, for his life had changed and he travels a different road.”
But now, one will come to tell of his sins, as though repentant, but continues living the same life as before. If, again, Apostle Paul told Christians that they, as luminaries, shone in the world, will not other words of Holy Scriptures refer to us, as the same apostle said of some, that they, "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” that is, outwardly seem to resemble an Orthodox Christian, but, in fact, have no spiritual strength, that which grants real life according to the Christian faith.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, as you know from the Gospel, even exclaimed, " O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?” Does He even now refer to us who are called Christians?
So, we need to remember, beloved, when we glorify the enlighteners of our country and people, Princess Olga and Prince Vladimir, we must remember that they left us great spiritual wealth, and we will give an account to the Lord God of how we used this wealth! Much has been given to us, but it is also said that to whom much is given, much will be asked. Therefore, we must all, as we pray to these saints, the Enlighteners of Russia, ask them to teach us to be steadfast followers of their life and of the Christian faith, as they were in their time.