Excerpts from the
Epistle of the Second All-Diaspora Council [Sobor] of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad to the Russian People Suffering in the Fatherland.
“By the Providence of God, a heavy cross was laid upon the shoulders of the Russian people, and not one of us is preserved from temptations. If the lot is drawn for you to suffer in the land of our fathers, then we are made to eat of the bread of disease in foreign countries on the roads of our exile. Great expanses separating us from our Homeland have not taken her out of our hearts. Bound with the knots of indissoluble brotherly love, as well as by the common sorrows and ailments that have befallen us all, we always carry in our hearts our crucified Mother Russia. Prostrating ourselves before her passion-bearing labors, we kiss her wounds, knowing that she brings for all of us a great sacrifice of atonement.
From her present humiliation we cannot but turn to our glorious history; in comparing one and the other we see the burden of God's punishment upon us.
The Lord gave us a splendid land, He stretched it from sea to sea, He multiplied and blessed our people, imparted us with various talents—not least of which was kindness and a great heart; at the very dawn of our consciousness He illuminated us with holy baptism, crowned us with holy Orthodoxy as with a diadem; under the latter our sovereign grew and strengthened, the Russian people became one of the most glorious and powerful in the world.
“Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel” (Job 29; 21-22). The Sovereign was directed to be the chief defender of the Orthodox Faith in the entire world, the protector of the weak and oppressed, the very establishment of order, of peace and of truth in the world. But now, the All-powerful has breathed His wrath upon him, casting him down from the heights to the earth, and he lies now in dust, “sated,” like Job, “with humility and sorrows.” In His wrath, the Lord “deposed the king and priest,” and did not spare “His own temples,” giving over our holy churches and other relics to the enemies. Heathens came to inherit God's legacy, desecrated His holy temple, Jerusalem—turned it into ruins, left the corpses of the servants of god to the birds of prey and spilled their blood like water: “
"We are become a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us" (Ps. 79:4). Our enemies “they did tear me, and ceased not: they gnashed upon me with their teeth…” (Ps. 35:16), they say: “we have devoured him, we have awaited this day, and it has arrived, we have seen it.”
An in light of all this, “His wrath has not turned from us, and His hand is high.” For what has our land earned such a terrible heavenly punishment?
“For lack of knowledge,” says the Old Testament prophet (Hos. 4:6).
It is because we carelessly sowed the wind, forgetting that out of it will arise a storm; because we ourselves shook the house where we resided for a millennium, forgetting that it could bury us in its rubble; because we “fell far down and perverted ourselves,” forgetting the higher calling from God, and did not stand fast in the truth of life, which was shown to us more clearly than any other peoples in the world. For this the Lord sent us "a strong delusion, that [we] should believe a lie” (II Thes. 2:11), and the Russian people truly believed it, tempted by the false dreams of an earthly heaven promised to them by the communists.
After twenty years of rule by the bolsheviks, now the whole world knows the false good of this heaven: it has become a parable for the world. It is a heaven from whence we hear the ringing of chains, where millions of people suffer in bondage, in dungeons, in concentration camps, the great prisons filled with so many people of different callings and ages, that they are uncountable; a heaven where multitudes despair under burdens like those of the pyramid-builders, cursing their forced labor, devoid of joy and creativity; a heaven, where the blossoming land of milk and honey has been turned into a desert, where cold and hunger became constant companions; a heaven where innocent blood flows freely, whence howls and moans and the gnashing of teeth is heard; a heaven where all are leveled to the equality of poverty and are devoid of rights and where, in place of brotherhood, bestial anger and hatred reign; a heaven, in which no one trusts his neighbor, not one person feels safe, either in the city or in the countryside, and even within his own family, where corrupted children often betray their own parents; a heaven, where the achievements of technology only overshadow the inner emptiness and insanity of daily life, where happiness has long ago withered away, and holidays themselves have turned into days of weeping and complaining; a heaven, where thought itself is shackled, where the religious conscience is raped, every holy thing is defiled and humiliated, and by this the last consolation of man is removed; a heaven, where untended children are thrown to walk the streets of big cities as in a desert, poisoned with every vice and crime, tearing bread from the hands of others only not to die of hunger; a heaven, where the spirit of atheism, animosity, hatred, deceit and all sorts of spiritual corruption spreads throughout the whole world; a heaven which the whole world is afraid of contact with, seeing in it the source of decaying moral infection; a heaven whose residents, like Job, curse the day they were born and strive to flee at the first opportunity as from a burning house or a prison; a heaven where suicide cuts short many young, beautiful lives from inescapable despair—this heaven is truly worthy of the name “hell,” and it cannot be anything else, for it is created without God and in fact against God. It is built on the bones of 30 million of the best Russian people who formed the flower of our nation. The world has never seen such a tomb, elevated onto the altar of an abstract, fanatical doctrine, blatantly showing its bankruptcy.
When the “Communist Manifesto” was published in 1847, written by Marx and Engels and striving to become the new Gospel for mankind, it drew behind it many enthusiasts believing in the quick transformation of the world, in the advent of a true “reign of freedom,” in which there would be no exploitation and enslavement of poor workers by the cruel rich, where full harmony of the individual and society would be manifested, where in some way the renewal of the very emancipated person would occur, who will not only be his own master, but also perfected, where nations would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into sickles, in order to forever forget bloody wars, where there would no longer be different social classes and even government itself. The execution of these almost religious prophecies is given to the proletariat, to whom Karl Marx imparts the greatest importance. Romanticism, idealism and materialism, intuition and fortune-telling, faith and scientific rationalism, utopian revolution and adaptability to existing conditions of political and social life with the goal of gradually improvement through plain evolutionary processes, peace and goodwill among men and class anger and hatred—all these strangely came together in Marxism. Much time was required for these contradictions to become apparent, and now, it is doubtless undergoing a profound crisis. Voices from among the convinced and authoritative socialists are heard condemning Marxism and its whole world view, founded upon a purely materialistic basis and breathing hatred and destruction…The bolsheviks themselves, having learned through bitter experience, understood that the pathos of destructin is not the pathos of creation. Confessing loyalty to the legacy of their teacher Marx in theory, they constantly recede from him in practice, forced to make concessions to the laws of nature, the requirements of daily life and the eternal demands of the human spirit.
Meanwhile, the Gospel, the living Word of God, exists forever, fearing not the test of time. Christ was in continues to be the focal point of history, and at the same time the eternal and Sole Guide for mankind.
Examining the course of history, we see that this great struggle surrounds His Name and His teachings, expressing itself in bloody wars, all sorts of crises and revolutionary movements. For some He serves as the cornerstone of their lives, for others an obstacle and a temptation. People sometimes stray from Him through their weakness or carelessness, then again return with tears of repentance, for they know that there is no name under the heavens that could carry with it salvation and life to mankind. Christ even now “conquers, reigns and commands,” as the ancient Christians would say. Only in the light of His teachings can one find the healthy resolution of such important and difficult social questions as baffle contemporary society. Only Christianity can remove the curse from labor, making it joyful and transforming it into free creative effort for mankind. Only Christianity organizes society, establishes peace, order and concord within mankind.
One cannot through rationalism alone balance the interests of separate individuals and various classes of society, nor forge the brotherhood of man through whips and scorpions, the normal means resorted to by bolsheviks in their communist experiments.
Love is the cement that firmly bonds people with each other, turning society into one orderly organism. The grace-filled power of love was brought to earth by the Divine Savior, distributing it to all mankind, near and far, good and evil, just and unjust. He placed it as a valuable treasure into the grace-filled treasure-house of the Church, from whence both individuals and all of mankind can drink from its plentitude. This love creates for all true equality and brotherhood in Christ. In their insane struggle against Christ, communists “curse what they understand not,” and consciously distort truth. They slander the Church, saying that She protects the rich and remains indifferent to the fate of the poor working classes. The Church cannot teach anything but that which Her Own Divine Founder taught by word and through His life…
In regards to the Russian Church, it has been from the very first days of Christianity in Russia the Mother of the Russian people, she gathered its statehood, gave life to and tempered its legislation, gave fruit to its culture, grieved for all the humiliated and needy, the nourisher of the hungry, protector of widows and orphans, the sick and the weak for whom she built hospitals, almshouses, orphanages and other charitable institutions, in the days of great national catastrophes she became the chief and sometimes only leader and savior of her people, from which they drew the moral strength for their spiritual renewal and strengthening of their statehood. All of our finest historians pay due attention to the great achievements of the Church, given to her Fatherland in its most difficult times.
The fruitful moral influence of the Church on our society and state and Russian existence itself continued unchanged until the most recent times of the existence of national Russia, though we did not notice it, as we did not notice the air we breathe. During war, represented by her clergy who blessed warriors before battle, often sharing with them the hardships of the battlefield, bringing grace-filled consolation to the wounded, ministering to the dying, whe showed not only love for mankind but great bravery as well. She did not reject, finally, her suffering people even after the recent catastrophes, when, perverted with the anti-ecclesiastical propaganda of the bolsheviks, many of them turned away from the Church, subjecting her to vile mockery and persecution.
We do not know what would happen to the Russian land if in the twilight of life there now the light of Christ, emanating from the Church, would be extinguished. It would turn into a Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Russian nation could disappear from the face of the earth. But by God's mercy it still exists, showing before the world the strength of its faith and Christian patience.
No matter how much the communist apparition of a heaven on earth is tempting, the Russian nation eluded this temptaion with a healthy mind and the dictates of its Orthodox conscience.
It understood that socialism dehumanizes the person and in the name of a false equality, which does not exist in nature, it destroys reigning human freedom, without which there is no creativity, no moral life and no humanity itself. Being of the earth and for the earth, socialism is incompatable with the Christian world view and is especially foreign to the Russian soul, to which God gave wings to strive from the earth to the heavens. The Russian man would sooner die that sacrifice his immortal soul and turn into an animal, as the godless Soviet powers would have it. The resistance to the lethal teachings and equally murderous state leads inexorably to martyrdom, and every day we see new passion-bearers and witnesses in the Russian land.
Hearing of the “patience of saints,” keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12), we ceaselessly thank God for you, who amidst brutal persecution until this day preserved whole the treasure received from the great illuminator, St. Vladimir Equal-to-the-Apostles, 950 years ago.
May your Christian bravery be blessed, with which you witnessed your good Orthodox testimony before many and before the very enemies of Christ, emulating Christ himself in the words of Apostle Paul, “who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession” (I Tim. 6:13)
For twenty years now, the Russian land has been submerged in bloody darkness. At times there are flashes of hope, and then gloom returns, throwing many weak-hearted ones into despair.
Suffering for so long in this fire of tribulation and losing courage in the expectation of our deliverance, you sometimes ask the Master of the world: “How much longer, Lord?” Your spirit stumbles upon seeing that evil remains unpunished, and the wicked blasphemers and strugglers against God continue to brashly challenge the faithful, asking: “Where is your God?”
Be consoled, dear brethren, God is now closer to all of us than during our previous well-being, for in our sorrows we unwillingly sought His Countenance, and He Himself gained our souls in humility and meekness. “For peace I had great bitterness,” as Hezekiah said (Is. 38:17). On the other hand, “There is a sinner that hath good success in evil things; and there is a gain that turneth to loss.” (___. 20:9). No matter how much stronger and bolder “the scoffers, walking after their own lusts” “whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (II Peter 3:3, 2:3) “The Lord knoweth,” teached St. Peter the Apostle, “how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities (II Peter, 2:9-10). If the Almighty is slow to thunder over their heads, then it because for a time He spares even His enemies, giving them time for repentance. He desires for us, too, who are tried by the flames of heavy temptations, “would stand before Him undefiled and pure in the world, like gold purified by fire and so that those who, in their depravity, dares to fight Him, would humble themselves before His omnipotence and came to the knowledge of Truth.”
But Divine Providence gives everything its own times and terms. If He sees that an evildoer continues to persist in his struggles, abusing His mercy, He lays him low and destroys him with His omnipotence, and there is not one person in the world who could save the wicked from His vengeful hand.
“Behold,” says St. John Chrysostom,” what great longsuffering God had for the pharaoh, and finally what punishment he endured for his evil deeds. How many misdeeds were committed by Nebuchadnezzer before he was punished for all.” “Divine Power can not only openly defeat enemies, but can easily lead them to error.” And we see how they fall yet further into the depths of error and seem to slide into the abyss, having no strength to stop from falling to their doom. Once more the words of the Wise One are confirmed: “Righteousness leads to life, and those who seek evil strive for their death.” Those who can discern the signs of the times cannot but see that the day of triumph of eternal truth is drawing near. Babylon falls, the great prostitute, sated with the blood of the saints and the raging wine of her perversion making the peoples of the world drunk, and all those whoremongering with her will weep and cry out over her, but the righteous one will be elated, seeing the revenge, when will come "in one day, death, and mourning, and famine…for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her” (Rev. 18:8).
In expectation of the terrible heavenly sentence upon the sons of lawlessness we must be courageous and firm, like an anvil, placing our hope not on the princes and the sons of man, but first and foremost upon the One King of ages, in Whose hands is authority over the whole world.
We do not know how many days are fated for us to pass through this tribulatin, but we must not envy the fortunate, reveling without a care in their worldly feast in the days of our misfortune, for we do not know to whom tomorrow belongs, and who will be joyous in the end. It is better to be in the house of sorrows than in the house of revelry, for in the mysterious depths of suffering, like the child from the womb of an ailing mother, new life will spring forth, for in the depths of sorrow one can see heaven.
Let us not falter in our tense struggle and let us bring it to its conclusion, for only he who endures until the end is awarded victory. Who knows that ways of the Lord? It may be that we, tried in so many ways, will be given to inspire today's culture, season it with the salt of the Gospel and show the world the desired kingdom of peace, love and truth on earth, for which Russia had pined and prayed, and which all of mankind today desires.
It is not for naught that we all await the resurrectin of Russia: her place will remain empty in the family of peoples, who feel her absence, which upsets not only the political but the moral balance in the whole world. This must give us greater courage in our struggle for the speedy recovery of our Homeland; our battle, yet, it a battle in flesh and blood: it is the struggle in the bowels of the people's spirit, where every revolution begins and ends—the struggle for the Russian Orthodox soul, which bears a special divine mark: it is this mark that the godless bolsheviks are trying to erase in order to stamp upon the Russian person their own image and likeness, so alien to our age-old Orthodox-national character.
There can be no battle without sacrifice: blood must be shed to gain spirit. But we will not be alone in this struggle: we are joined with the ancient leaders and builders of the Russian land, and especially by the “firm zealot and unshakable pillar,” St. Germogen and his righteous companions, standing firmly for the Faith and the house of the Most-Pure Mother of God during the first time of troubles. That it is specifically the Orthodox Faith that is the genuine soul of the Russian people did not elude their piercing gaze, that it is the source of their life force and strength; if the Russian person loses this treasure, he loses everything, and if he keeps it, then he will receive both the kingdom of this world and all that is needed for his temporal well-being…
What zeal would enflame these staid defenders of Holy Russian now, in view of the new terrible destruction of the Fatherland? If they saw ruined churches all around, desecration, the multitude of bishops, priests, monastics and Christian souls dying horrible deaths, the abomination of neglect seizing the throne in the sanctified Kremlin itself, where there is no longer Latin singing but the preaching of atheism disseminated throughout the entire world—they would rend their garments, pour ashes upon their heads, and, turning to us, would ask in a thunderous voice, as they asked their contemporaris: “Does all this, Orthodox Christians, mean nothing to you?”
Even louder would cry out to us the blood of our martyrs, headed by the Tsar-Passion-bearer and the hierarch-martyrs, among whom are the blessed-in-memory Metropolitans Vladimir, Benjamin and other archpastors, showing themselves to be true witnesses of Christ.
The sacrifice brought by them would be for naught if we did not continue their great struggle for our Homeland. Nothing hurts us more on this path than lethal passions for conflict and division: this is our great national fault, in which, yet, we cannot blame anyone but ourselves…The time has come to conquer this ailment, to waken from our slumber, and, making the sign of the Cross, begin the great and holy task of recreating our destroyed Fatherland through the reestablishment of close spiritual ties amongst ourselves…The Church must be the ancient Gatherer of the Russian land and of the Russian national spirit. She remains so even today. Our Council [Sobor], consisting of bishops, clergy and laity, gathering together, notwithstanding all the difficulties of travel for Russian exiles, indeed, from all ends of the world, is a victory of the ecclesio-social unity around its eternal symbol—the Holy Cross.
The Lord blessed our Conciliar work, crowning it with utter peace and unity of mind, and granting us the lofty consolation of feeling as one in spirit and flesh, for we are called in the unity of the hope of our calling.
Carefully preserving in our souls this aromatic spirit of conciliarity, which more than once saved Russia in past centuries, we wish naturally to distribute it yet further, we hope that it breathes also in the very masses of people in the Russian land. This spurs us to turn to you, dear brethren, carrying your heavy cross within the borders of our Fatherland, to “counsel” you in the common goal of the salvation of the Homeland, as the Russian people of yore did in difficult periods of its history and to tell you from our hearts: we are one with you. We are the children of one and the same Mother—the Russian Orthodox Church, the offspring of one and the same great Russian people. Our heart suffers together with you over the destruction of the Russian land, becoming once again “stateless,” as it was three hundred years ago; over the eclipsing of the people's reason, over the darkening of the people's conscience, over the teetering of minds and the pathetic divisions the bore within the Russian people, over the fact that many of the “weak-willed,” under the influence of powerlessness, the general collapse of morality and over the destruction of the Russian Orthodox way of life. For twenty years now Russia has these troubles; a whole generation has been born and reared in the storm of revolution, surrounded by its corrupting and poisoning breath, and they no longer have a sense of the living history of their people, they do not feel its former greatness and beauty; they do not value their holy legacies and traditions, which gave life to our Homeland over the passing centuries. Time carries away the last statesmen and witnesses of our glorious past, the carriers of the historical Russian national soul.
It is to our grief if the last threads snap that bind us to the ancient Russian of St. Vladimir. Who will be able to resurrect it then? A new people will arise, separated from its historical roots. It will not survive life's battles without the firm, inherited foundations, sanctified by the centuries, and will be crushed by the first gusts of a storm, like a house built on sand.
If we genuinely desire good for our Homeland—that it will be saved and we along with it, if we do not wish for our people, with their thousand-year history and still youthful sould and body, would die a second, spiritual death, then we must arise from our moral infirmitude, defeat the spirit of despair within ourselves, our ambitions and idle talk, and, gathering as one our thoughts, feelings and desires, we must stand bravely and firmly in defense not so much of the external, but of the internal spiritual legacy of Russia.
We truly grieve over this fiery time, when good and evil, when the spirit of truth and that of delusion, when the Kingdom of Christ and the reign of the prince of this world, have engaged in a terrible, uncompromising battle, requiring of all of us clear and firm Orthodox-national self-determination, not allowing doubt nor wavering into other directions, for “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (Jam. 1:8).
“I am come to send fire on the earth;” said Christ our Lord, “and what will I, if it be already kindled?” (Luk. 12:49). O, if only this holy fire, the fire of Christian zeal, faith, love and patriotic sacrifice, would truly be kindled in our hearts: it would burn away the brambles of fuss and division that weaken us so, it would clarify our minds, would purify our hearts, would forge and strengthen our will and would meld us into one powerful organism before which no enemies could prevail.
And it is kindled even now, by the mercy of God, in Russia as well as in the countries of our exile. Let us not dampen it, but, filling ourselves with spirit and strength, let us unify in the struggle to defend our Mother Church and the salvation of the Fatherland in unified prayer to Him, Who alone has the power to bless our national holy battle to complete victory.
God! Save Russia. God! Save and strengthen her suffering sons, who in the strength of their faith and patience, carry Your witness to the world. God, gather us all in the bosom of our Mother Church in our Holy Russian Motherland, and restore her, intervene, preserve and have mercy with Your grace.