From the Editors: As reported today from the Chancery of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York gave his blessing to read the following Epistle on the Second Sunday of Great Lent from all church ambos to mark the 100th anniversary of the appearance of the “Sovereign” Icon of the Mother of God.
Beloved in Christ Brothers and Sisters:
This year, the entire world, especially we all, will remember the great tragedy of the 20th century which disrupted the fates of millions of people. This calamity literally touched the lives of every Russian family, wherever they may have been. We remember now the hundredth anniversary of the bloody and destructive revolution in Russia. As a result of the betrayal of the government and military leadership, the Tsar was forced to abdicate the throne, which led to unavoidable consequences: the demise of the state, the martyric death of the Tsar himself and of his Most August Family, the brutal internecine war, and the unprecedented persecution of the Orthodox Church and of faith in God in Russia.
In 1909, Peter Arkadievich Stolypin declared: “Give the government 20 years of peace, internal and external, and you will not recognize the Russia of today!” Alas, the Russian Prime Minister was only to live another two years. He was killed in the presence of his Sovereign in a theater in Kiev in 1911.
The fact that Russia was making enormous strides forward was recognized far beyond the borders of our Fatherland, even so far as the United States of America. In November, 1914, the magazine National Geographic published a noteworthy issue devoted to Russia. Social and economic analyses of the day showed that by the date targeted by Stolypin, all key economic indicators would show that Russia would have achieved unstoppable growth. The only thing that hindered it was a revolution organized and supported by the Western nations. Our Fatherland was not given even 20 days of peace. It is important to note that the constant denigration of Russia on the part of “Western civilization” we see today existed a hundred years ago and, in fact, much earlier. The world despised the Russian Empire, the heir to Holy Orthodox Rus. Neither adherence to the duty to Russia’s allies, nor the unceasing readiness for cooperation by the Russian Tsars could change that. The renowned British statesman, Lord Palmerston, succinctly stated: “How difficult life is in the world when no one is at war with Russia.” He was referring to the mid-19th century, but sadly it went unheeded.
In the beginning of the 20th century, St Makary (Nevsky), Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomensk, cautioned: “We are now experiencing times of trouble. Russia has survived periods of tribulation, but they were never as dangerous as today. Then, everyone was for God, everyone wished to know His will, but today it is different. Then they supported the Tsar. Today that has changed. Today we hear blasphemy against God and plots against His anointed one…”
The educated classes in Russia, raised in so-called “Westernizing” traditions, pushed Russia with almost suicidal relentlessness into the abyss, pushing the Russian people in every way possible to reject their faith, their Tsar and their Fatherland. One cannot help but remember the words of the Psalmist David: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalms 14:1).
But even in the darkest times of persecution, the Lord did not abandon His people. Thus, this year we mark another no-less-important 100th anniversary-the restoration of the Patriarchate in Russia. This happened precisely when an intercessor and sufferer for the entire Russian Church was especially needed. The enthronement of St Tikhon, Patriarch of All Russia and Confessor, took place on November 21/December 4, 1917, in the Uspensky Cathedral in Moscow’s Kremlin, on the feast day of the Entrance into the Temple of the Most-Holy Mother of God. But even before, on the very day of the abdication of the Anointed of God, Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich, March 2/15, 1917, the miraculous “Sovereign” Icon of the Mother of God was revealed to our people as a sign that the Most-Pure Queen would not abandon her care for the suffering Russian land, which from days of old was known as the House of the Most-Holy Mother of God.
Even now, when in the words of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, “The Lord replaced wrath with mercy towards Russia,” all Russian people are Divinely granted the opportunity of returning to their Orthodox Christian roots. We must now make sense of our history and understand the reasons why Russia fell into such terrible tribulation. One of the reasons for those tragic times was the apostasy and neglect of faith in Christ, and the rejection of the Divinely-ordained government. We must not under any circumstances justify the actions of those responsible for the deadly revolution. A symbol of reconciliation of the Russian nation with the Lord would be to rid Red Square of the remains of the main persecutor and executioner of the 20th century, and the destruction of monuments to him. They are all symbols of catastrophe, tragedy, and of the destruction of our God-given Sovereignty. The same applies to the cities, oblasts and streets which are deprived of their original historic names.
During those times of troubles, the Russian Church Abroad always deemed it her sacred duty to express the full truth about Russian history, which was impossible to do in the Fatherland. Now we must, first of all, remind the Russian people of the path of the Cross of the New Martyrs. This is not a political matter, as some might insist, but a matter of spiritual conscience. Truly, we must know to the fullest extent possible the history of the podvig of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. Then, we hope, every Russian person will follow the commands of his own conscience and come to the conclusion that in his God-preserved nation, there is no place for the symbols of the godless state and the names of militant atheists.
Ten years ago, during the great consecration of the church in Butovo Square, Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory, addressing all those in attendance, said, “The land here is abundantly soaked in the blood of the martyrs, and it is planted with their bones; may it be as an altar unto Christ our God. A prophet said long ago about the persecutors of the Church of Christ: 'I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found’ (Psalms 37:35-36). May their memory be wiped away in the hearts of men, and the Church of Christ established forever in the Russian land!”
We call upon our entire flock, and upon all Orthodox Russian people, in the Fatherland and in the diaspora: preserve as the apple of your eye the gift the Lord has given us-the holy and saving Orthodox Christian faith, remember always the words of Christ: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Amen.
With love in Christ,