NEW YORK: June 18, 2008
Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York: "The Light of the Life-bearing Sepulcher of the Lord Must Shine In Our Eyes, In Our Deeds, In Our Lives"
The First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, in an interview with the official website of the Council [Sobor] of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, www.sobor2008.ru, spoke of what the hierarchs, clergy and flock of the Church Abroad expect from the forthcoming Sobor. His Eminence reflected on this past year since the signing of the Act of Canonical Communiion, and also touched upon other matters of the life of the Church.
— Your Eminence, the participation of the bishops of the Church Abroad in the Council of Bishops is a natural consequence of the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, yet on the other hand, it is so novel: what expectations do you have for this Sobor?
— Naturally, we have no concept of how Councils of Bishops take place in Moscow. We have had some thirty bishops (at one time) in the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, so we would work in a more familial atmosphere. In Moscow, there will be some 200 bishops. I think that my brother archpastors will pay close attention to the speeches at the Council read by those who carry out their service in Russia and in the countries of the "near abroad," because we wish to acquaint ourselves with their experiences, their joys and their problems.
At the meetings between the members of the Synod of Bishops and the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate who participated in the installation of my unworthiness upon the First-Hierarchal throne of the Russian Church Abroad, Archbishop Innokenty of Korsun said that the voice of the archpastors from abroad is very important, stressing that our archpastors can introduce a fresh current into the atmosphere of the approaching Church Council.
What expectations do we have? We hope that this Sobor will ceremoniously declare the word vonmem ["Let us attend"] before the whole world, confirming the adherence of the whole Local Russian Orthodox Church to the purity of the Orthodox Faith and the traditions of the Holy Fathers. We pray that this Council will inspire those in the Fatherland and Abroad, that it makes a healthy and sober review of the problems of today's society.
— What questions in church life, in your opinion, are most critical for the flock abroad?
— I feel that the Church must go out into the people more, as Bishop Theophan the Recluse said, "making the apostolic walk amongst the people." We cannot limit ourselves to divine services and performing services of need. The task of the clergyman must constantly speak of love, and they must love their flock. We clergymen must first of all work on our own souls, we must strive to be better, developing our personal relationship with God through prayer and humility, understanding others, not accusing the sinful, not condescend to them from above, but sympathize and empathize with them. We must preach not so much in word but in deed, in pious life. It is with this that we must preach into the world.
It is noteworthy that it is customary to conduct processions of the cross around our churches every day of Paschal Bright Week. Why? The Church calls upon its children in this way to preach the Resurrection of Christ in this world, which is "adulterous and sinful." The Church says: "go out into the people and, in spiritual joy, continue the work of the apostles and myrrh-bearers." The light of the Life-Bearing Sepulcher of the Lord must shine in our eyes, in our deeds, in our lives. Then, and only then, will we partake of the sweetness of success in the missionary and proselytizing work of the Church.
— Could you describe the year that has passed since the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion; what has been done and what still needs to be done?
— Thanks to the prayers and righteous efforts of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory, this last year saw great successes, with great spiritual uplifting and colossal benefits for Orthodoxy. After the ceremonies relating to the signing of the Act, Vladyka Laurus visited the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, where, visiting its holy relics, he extended a brotherly hand of support for His Beatitude Metropolitan Volodymyr and all of canonical Orthodoxy in the country, which was suffering from schism.
Then, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II and Metropolitan Laurus, an official delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate and the singers of Moscow's Sretensky Stavropighial Monastery, accompanying the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God, traveled throughout almost all the dioceses of the Russian Church Abroad, sowing the seeds of good, of beneficence and of the eternal.
These joint services before the Reigning Icon, the great holy icon of the Russian Orthodox Church, opened the spiritual eyes of many who resisted that which occurred on May 17, 2007, and convinced those who doubted the correctness of the path we chose. With time, I hope, the ecclesiastical unity we achieved with God's help will continue to strengthen and bear fruits, and that will persuade those who left the Church to return to her salvific bosom.
On the other hand, I noticed that our guests from Russia, visiting our parishes and monasteries and looking our clergymen and flock in the eyes, came to the conclusion that we never departed from the Russian Orthodox Church, and always lived in her, and ached for her.
— A great deal of attention is paid to youth ministry in Russia—there are Orthodox youth publications, there are various church forums for youth, many youth groups are forming in parishes. What is youth ministry like in the Church Abroad?
— By a decision of the recent Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, held in May, the Sunday of All Saints will from now on be the Day of Youth of the Russian Church Abroad. This celebration will be aimed at all three social-cultural groups of the youth of our Holy Church: youth born in Russia, those born abroad and those who converted to Orthodoxy in those countries where the Russian Church Abroad is found. The youth program of the Russian Church Abroad will be organized to attract youth on the periphery of church life who admire Russia's culture and legacy, which are infused with the spirit of Holy Russia.
The culmination of the Day of Youth will be an international Youth Festival of the Russian Church Abroad, to be held every three years in a selected location. This Festival, in essence, will replace the All-Diaspora Youth Conferences and will be correspondingly grand and exciting.
On the parish and diocesan levels, the Day of Youth of the Church Abroad will be organized by diocesan youth committees so that the young people themselves participate in the work, that is, so the events would be a direct result of their efforts.
Preparations for the Day of Youth in the area of raising awareness and interest will be done by means of several wide-ranging actions. For instance, inter-parish "Olympic" games, lecture series, micro-conferences, exhibitions, excursions, etc. The Day of Youth will be preceded by competitions for a "Youth of the Year" in specific categories: language, culture, etc. The Day of Youth will be marked by ceremonies: a diocesan "Youth of the Year" event presided over by the Ruling Bishop, at which young people will receive their awards, the finalists receiving a prize, for example, a trip to the next International Youth Festival of the Church Abroad. Each parish will mark this day with a moleben in accordance with an official ukase, calling upon the parishioners and especially the youth to lift up their prayers for the groups of young people and for the success of their efforts.
In addition, we will continue to host youth conferences, support children's camps and our parish schools, in which children learn the Law of God, Russian language, literature, history, etc.
— What is it that is most memorable about the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand? Why did Metropolitan Vitaly call it "the pearl of the Russian diaspora?"
— The faithful children of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand remain in my memory for their love for the Church and its divine services, for their piety and dedication to the traditions of their forefathers, which they lovingly cherish. Every parish is a little bit of Russia, specifically, of old Russia. In each house, pious Russian traditions are preserved, long forgotten in other dioceses. The archpastors and pastors who labored there educated the new generations which honorably continue the work of God: divine services are often held in overfilled churches, the elderly are tended to in a multitude of Russian homes for the aged organized near each parish; they teach in well-established parish schools, they support church charitable organizations, they hold separate discussions with groups of various ages, etc.
That is why the late Vladyka Vitaly called it the "the pearl of the Russian diaspora." The pastors and flock jointly, piously labor for the good of the Church and the Russian people abroad. That is why I decided to retain my administration of this wonderful diocese.