Sermon by Archbishop Anastassy (Gribanovsky) on the Entrance Into the Temple of the Most-Holy Mother of God in Moscow’s Uspensky Cathedral during the Enthronement of St Tikhon, Patriarch-Confessor of All Russia
“Today the Church of God rejoices, beholding the God-chosen Child enters the Temple of the Lord, together with Grace.”
Russian Orthodox Christians today doubly rejoice, seeing as along with the Most-Pure Herself leads into Her temple a great Hierarch, representing for us the good will of God.
Joachim and Anna and a consort of young girls with candles and Divine song led the Pure Virgin into the Temple in Jerusalem to betroth Her to Her Heavenly Groom. With the glow of sacred flames, with song and choirs, truly like a groom of the Church, the Holy Council led into the house of the Mother of God the Divinely-elected Patriarch in order to betroth him upon the primatial throne with the entire Church of Russia. The Most-Pure Mother of God on this day stepped into the Holiest of Holies in the ancient Temple. Does not our elected Patriarch today enter the Holiest of holies of the Russia Land as he entered the greatest of holy sites of the Russian people: here is the aroma of sanctity, here, in the house of the Most-Pure, from ancient days pious thoughts, prayers and vows were made by the Russian people; upon this holy site, Holy Rus from ancient days touched the Heavens and her living earthly builders mystically united with their heavenly patrons and intercessors.
From the host of these holy hierarchs of Rus we now erect a new lantern of the Church; from the blessed hand the double blessing is not made upon the head of our new primate, like the myrrh upon the head of Aaron. The Most-Pure Mother of God Herself, through Her miraculous icons entrusts the staff to him of lofty service, making him a guardian of Her House and the entire Russian land. The great Primate of Russia, Metropolitan Peter, extends his staff to him, glorified with grace, so that now, as the garment of the Russian Church is being torn, when lots are being case for the vestments of the sovereign, he, our new Primate, may gather all that was lost with this staff, uniting what has been rent asunder, emulating the great gatherer and builder of ancient Rus, St Peter, and his equals SS Alexei and Jonah.
St Philipp, whose bold voice denounced the powerful Tsar, even now forces us to stand in trepidation within this church, and he commands his successor to labor even unto blood for his flock and to fearlessly denounce and instruct those who hold power, whoever holds it—the people as a whole or individual representatives, if this state departs from its lofty Christian calling.
Rising now before us is another great and true defender of Orthodoxy, Hieromartyr Ermogen, and entrusts the new leader of the Russian Church the legacy of his much-suffered service; he entrusts him to stand firm for the holy faith, for the house of the Most-Holy Mother of God, to be vigilant for our Fatherland, protecting it from external thieves and internal enemies, those who do not fear killing the body but who cannot kill the soul.
We now turn to another great man of suffering for the Russian land, St Sergius, who beholds the Schema-Archimandrite of his Lavra now ascend to his high calling, and blesses and strengthens him as he bears his ascetic cross.
At one time, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies with blood; by Divine Providence, our new Head Priest now enters this holy temple from the streets of a city reddened with blood spilt by internecine strife. ”For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15). And you know that even in this day, bright for him and for us all, he is not fated to escape harsh tribulations, for the path is thorny and the gates narrow through which we traveled for this great celebration of the Russian Church.
Who among us can behold without shuddering the destruction of the Kremlin, our Holy Zion, which signifies not only the ruination of the city of our fathers, but the darkening of the Russian Orthodox conscience. The stones themselves cry out over the dissolution of the spirit of our people.
The disgraced Chudov Monastery, the home of St Alexei, this abomination of desolation taking the holy place in the Patriarchal vestry, this wondrous Uspensky Cathedral, pierced at the top with gunfire, is this not a symbol of all of Russia herself, bloodied, desecrated, torn apart by the hands of her own sons. To this humbled, bleeding Orthodox Russia now emerges His Holiness the Patriarch in order to offer spiritual leadership. It is not with cries of victory, nor ceremonious “Hosannas” that Russia greets her new primate, but with groans and wailing of his suffering flock, whom he must as the Chief Priest gather in his heart and represent before Throne of the Omnipotent Lord.
It is not this great sacrificial service by the Patriarch that is revealed in the rite of his enthronement which you witnessed today. You beheld how two of the eldest hierarchs thrice lifted and placed upon the throne the new Patriarch with the uttering of the words: “In the name of the Father. Amen. And the Son. Amen. And the Holy Spirit. Ament.” What does this sacrament signify if not the baptism, suffering and death of Christ the Savior, Whom every pastor must remember, especially the chief among them, obliged to carry upon himself the ailments and suffering of the entire people of the Russian Church.
But the cross ever contains the legacy of victory: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5).
As the Chief of our salvation needed to suffer in order to enter in His glory (Luke 24:26) and sit at the Right Hand of Great Throne on high, so everyone who emulates His Service as Chief Priest must suffer to be chastened (Hebrews 11:11), and enter into Divine Glory.
To mark this eternal victory over the world, our High Priest has sat upon the lifted throne in truth as an image of Christ Himself, the Victor over death and the forces of evil. When he donned the glory of his rank, and candles were lit all around to symbolize our spiritual joy and the spiritual light which must bountifully be poured out from the Patriarch, as the concentrated point of the grace-filled role as pastor and teacher of the Church.
Who among us did not feel warmth in our hearts as we beheld this divine and honorable ceremony? Today the golden chain of our ancient holy traditions is rejoined. Today the holy hopes of centuries and generations are answered, and the Patriarchal Throne is widowed no more. God Himself brought forth a pastor to us for whom all those who love Zion have prayed.
Receive, dear brothers, the newly-enthroned Patriarch as a father sent down from on high, and surround him with the most profound and genuine filial honor and obedience.
Place him like a seal upon your hearts, and it will be strong, and may your love to the Primate of the Russian Church be as strong as death (Song of Solomon 8:6), and the love with wings of fire. From this holy love burn and purify your hearts: “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned” (Palms 39:3). Let us all surround him, Russian Orthodox Christians, for the harvest is great, and help him establish the Church and rebuild this shaken and almost ruined sovereignty. And he, like the High Priest Jonathan, shall not cease to bravely fight for his people (1 Maccabees 9:44) and like the great Joacim “cry unto the Lord with all their power, that he would look upon all the house of Israel graciously” (Judith 4:14).
And we hope that God will heed the prayers of the First Hierarch, warmed by the suffering labors of his flock, and “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up” (Hosea 6:2). Amen.