Over the last few weeks there has been growing discussion in Russia about the church after incidents in a church by a punk band damaged icons; claims about watches and houses used by the Church, the Patriarch and his relatives. I am told by friends who are watches of Russian news channels regularly that the comments and debates are almost nightly. This week a large public prayer service was held in front of Christ the Saviour Catherdal in Moscow in defence of “the faith, desecrated shrines, the Church and it’s good name.” Below is the video of the service and Patriarch Kyrill’s homily in English.
22 April 2012, in the 2nd week of Easter, St. Thomas, in front of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow was committed moleben in thedefense of the faith, desecrated shrines, the Church and its good name.Service was led by His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirillalong with the host of bishops and clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
We have just heard words from the Gospel according to John that conclude with the account of the assurance of Thomas, that same Thomas who, not having believed in the Resurrection of Christ, required that he be given the opportunity to touch the crucified and Risen Savior with his own hands and to feel His wounds. This Thomas met His Savior, Who said: reach hither thy hand, and thrust it in My side, and be not faithless, but believing (20:27). The conclusion of this Gospel text is remarkable: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name (20:31).
These are perhaps the most essential, the most important, and the most concentrated words of the Gospel, in which everything is opened up – heaven and earth; the past, present, and future – and in which pulsates the nerve of world history. If someone believes that Jesus is the Son of God, then eternal life opens up to him. We are accustomed to the usual outlook on life: education, upbringing, career, salary, success, aging, retirement and, in the best case, a good old age; or, in the worst case, an unhappy old age and the end. How much effort and energy we expend for the sake of revolving around within this temporal compass without seeing what is essential, without seeing the true perspective!
But belief in eternal life is given to one who believes in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Eternal life is not simply life after death; it begins here on earth. Eternal life is the ability to see oneself, the surrounding world, history, one’s society, one’s nation, and the entire human race through the prism of Divine revelation. One can look at the world quite simply, with one’s own eyes, but how many factors get in the way of this vision! Either bright sun, or darkness, or else strong wind – all this, in both the literal and the figurative senses, influence a person’s worldview, escaping his mind’s eye and goal-setting on one side or another. But if we gaze upon God’s world, ourselves, our nation, and humanity through the prism of Divine revelation, then we are given a vision that others do not possess.
The battle with Christ, with His preaching of the Kingdom of God, and with His truth, began immediately after He had pronounced the first words of his preaching. His words were so powerful that they could not be ignored. But there were also those who said: “This is all completely wrong; He is a liar. He is passing Himself off as something He is not. He imagines Himself to be one thing, while in fact He is something completely different. Yes, miracles. Yes, He did perform something there. But who said that these miracles are from God? Perhaps He performs miracles by the power of Beelzebub, the king of demons? He denounces, He casts merchants from the temple – by what power does He do this? Who gave Him this power? Who permitted Him to disturb the people? No, something needs to be done with Him without fail. Despite the fact that we say that this is a lie, the people are following Him. Despite the fact that we say that this is all completely wrong and that He is a liar, the people do not believe it.”
And what took place on that Sunday before the last week of the Savior’s life, when He had suddenly raised the dead? At that point no one asked any questions about how this had been accomplished. Thousands upon thousands of people went out to meet the Conqueror of death. And then what? A decision was made: “No words will persuade anyone, no lie will work, no slander is enough – He needs to be killed.” And they killed Him, sowing new confusion into people’s minds by convincing them that He had been killed justly: “Better that one person should die for the people than for everyone to perish, because otherwise the Romans would make their regime of occupation even more severe.”
Then suddenly it became known that the tomb is empty, that He is not there, even though there was a guard of Romans there, bound by iron discipline, prepared to die rather than abandon their post! Despite the guard and soldiers, the tomb was open and the stone rolled away. “He is not risen – His disciples have stolen Him by night and said that He is risen.” These are the same disciples who had fled in terror?! Who sat at home, trembling? These very same were prepared to go against the custodia, against the Roman guard, against the soldiers clad in armor, who would not allow them access to the tomb? But this lie was spread among the people: “The disciples have stolen Him.”
From that time forward, the great words of John the Theologian have been the primary nerve of all human history: “All this has been written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God; and that believing, you might have eternal life” [cf. John 20:31]. Nothing new has taken place over the course of these two thousand years: the same lies and slander; the same mobilization of political powers; and the same mobilization, if necessary, of means of intimidation and oppression. The entire history of the Church is one of martyrdom and confession.
Yet this history was reflected in an entirely unique way in our nation’s life during the twentieth century, surpassing all other instances of the bloody annihilation of Christ’s legacy. Nowhere, never, and in no other country has there been done that which was done here. In order to expel memory itself, priests, monks, nuns, and faithful people were killed and churches were blown up – we know what transpired on this very place. Who can prove that this entire grandiose battle, requiring enormous forces – intellectual, administrative, military, and financial – has been waged against a myth? This is no myth: this is the main nerve of history.
How gratefully our nation responded to the freedom to believe! How they began to raise up churches of God to heaven throughout the entire expanse of historical Rus’? In regards to the very church of God before which we are now standing, the very same people who had cried out “The disciples stole Him by night!” now, in a moment of dire economic crises, said: “Why restore the Cathedral of Christ the Savior? This money could be used to buy or do such-and-such or such-and-such.” There were traitors in priestly robes then, just as there are today those among us who say: “Why gather for prayer? Let us forget about it! Let us make it look as if nothing is happening in our life today.” But something is happening in our life, and something most remarkable! Then we rebuilt the Cathedral of Christ the Savior as a symbol of the rebirth of Holy Russia, as a symbol of our hope, as a symbol of our fidelity to the words we heard today from the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian.
When the perspective of God’s Kingdom is opened up to someone, signs of the presence of this Kingdom begin to appear in his life: a joyful beating of the heart when one comes into contact with holy things, when one Communes of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, when one does good deeds, or when one venerates a holy thing. A holy thing is the material image of the presence of the Kingdom of God in human history – thus has it has always been perceived by people with a religious consciousness. Therefore Alexander Nevsky, Dmitry Donskoy, Suvorov, Kutuzov, Nakhimov, and Marshall Zhukov all venerated holy things during the most difficult moments in history. They all bowed down before holy things during fateful moments of history as before signs of the presence of heaven on earth, of the Kingdom of God. And the Lord heard the prayer of both the great and the unknown, and sent down His mercy upon our Fatherland.
Much has been accomplished during the last years of Russia’s spiritual rebirth. Perhaps one of the most important achievements is that people, including those belonging to different religious traditions, have come to feel closer to one another in recognition of the fact that they have something in common that gives them a foothold in this turbulent and fast-flowing historical process. In this regard Russia is an amazing example of cooperation among people traditionally belonging to religious groups that have always existed on the territory of our country.
We have other accomplishments as well, the most important of which are the millions upon millions of people who have recognized that the Orthodox faith is the fulcrum of their lives, who are not prepared to change this faith, and are not prepared to reject it or to think of the future of their country without the support of the Orthodox faith. And when today we come under attack from persecutors, this cannot be compared to what took place in the past; but the danger lies in the very fact that we are being asked to consider the blasphemy, sacrilege, and mockery of holy things as a lawful expression of human freedom, as something that should be protected in contemporary society. This approach, even in microscopic phenomena, has turned into a phenomenon of enormous scale that affects every believing person.
What are we, my dear ones, doing here today, by gathering in such multitude? We have not come here for a rally; the Church does not hold rallies. We have no posters, only church banners and icons. We have come here to pray to God for our country and our nation, that never again, and under no circumstances, will the Cathedral of Christ the Savior be blown up; that our holy things not be desecrated; that our history not be distorted; and that our spirit and our moral energy not be perverted. We are not threatening anyone, and we are not demonstrating our strength, for the Lord’s strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). No one can forbid us during fateful moments of history – and today we are experiencing such a moment – from gathering together for a prayerful standing.
The word “standing” [stoianie] shares a common root with another word, “standing before” [predstoianie]. Thus, we have gathered here to stand before God, to pray for our Fatherland, our nation, and our youth, that the Lord might protect it from the demonic temptations, allurements, and suggestions to which our nation was once so susceptible, destroying both our country and ourselves. We will pray for the wellbeing of our great country, historical Rus’, that common spiritual expanse from the Black Sea to the White Sea, from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. But today our special prayer is for Russia, that the Lord might send down His mercy upon us, granting us the opportunity to go out to meet the future with peace in our souls and joy in our hearts, remembering that the Lord is with us.
I call upon all of you now to concentrate, standing before the Lord in simplicity of soul and purity of heart, as we send up prayer for our country, our nation, and our Church, that the Lord might send down His mercy, granting us all the ability to see the coming Kingdom of God, which begins here on earth yet does not end with earthly life, but continues into eternity. Amen.