SAN FRANCISCO: May 7, 2006
Address of His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill at the Opening of the IV All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Your Eminence Vladyka Metropolitan, Eminent Archpastors, Esteemed Fathers and God-loving Children of the One Church of Christ!
With a warm heart and with unwavering trust in the Will of the Creator, our King, Savior and Consoler, in the name of the Most-Holy Trinity, whom we confess and praise, within this cathedral, which was consecrated in the name of the Miracle-working Icon of the Most-Holy Mother of God, "Joy of All Who Sorrow," and under Her Holy Protection, we declare the IV All-Diaspora Council of the exiled Russian Orthodox Church open.
The reasons, the meaning and the Divine Providence of our exile is directly associated with the specific question put before us, and through us to the whole of the much-suffering Russian people. Therefore, we must consider it, make sense of it, and take it as the subject of our podvig of piety and prayer in these coming days. For the sake of brevity, let us bypassing the usual ceremonial phrases and discussion of the state of our Diocese, and let us pause at the very essence of this great prayerful spiritual labor, and immerse ourselves in the very questions we are challenged together to properly understand. We do this reflecting not our own will, but pray that it reflects the will of the Most High.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven," declared our Lord to us. Blessed are those who endure exile, because through tribulation and by standing firmly in the faith, and by cleansing their hearts, they are able to approach the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God, which is not of this world. This well-known teaching of Christ is the spiritual foundation and meaning of the existence of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, providently witnessing Righteousness of God to the ends of the world and in all languages.
By the words "for righteousness' sake," Christ our God meant that the Divine Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, is set aside for those who witness the Divine Truth, a Higher Truth, and suffer for that - persecution. This Divine Truth consists of faith in God, the confession of the Most-Holy Trinity, the preaching of the Word of God, service to Christ, to His Most-Holy Mother, to His Holy Saints, all that the Holy Gospel teaches us, and everything that the Holy Fathers inscribed in the Creed.
It is this Truth and nothing else that led to the creation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, in those terrible years when it, by Divine Will and Providence, was able to escape the unheard-of, indescribable persecutions which battered Russia, the Russia captured by mindless atheists.
With humility, bowing down before the will of the Most High, our pastors assumed the burden of preserving Orthodoxy among the Russian refugees who were expelled by this godless terror in an unprecedented historical cataclysm. Some may now believe, especially to those who live in the wealthier dioceses, that our Church Abroad is blossoming under the sunshine of the democratic West. However, it is worth remembering those years during which Blessed Metropolitan Anthony, and his co-strugglers in the faith and successors, cared for our parents and our grandparents in the face of poverty, while bombs fell from the sky, through roiling revolutionary and military crisis, and in all places, from China, to Germany, to Poland… Many of you and I have been granted by The Lord God the honor of knowing and hearing firsthand the clear, meticulously-detailed recollections of how they were tortured, how they suffered, how they languished and wandered from place to place in foreign lands, "exiled for righteousness' sake." As were many of you, I was also given these strict mandates and legacies: to preserve, protect and deliver, once again to Russia, the Truth of Christ; but at the same time to relay to those spiritually close to us the bitter, horrible and complicated Truth about the horrifying era of the Revolution, the killing of brother by brother in the Civil War, and about what we experienced while living in exile from Russia.
Much was endured. Let this one word, "much," be an expressive enough reminder to all of us of all that was sorrowful and bitter and of all the difficulties that befell our Russian emigres. But if we are to take from this one primary, single and unequivocal tenet, what would that be? For me personally, both as an archpastor and as a Russian Orthodox Christian, the essence would be Prayer for the Salvation of Russia.
Can we doubt that after many decades of tireless fervent supplication, that our elders have not been heard? Such earnest men of prayer as our St John and his successors and brethren of the Western American Diocese, Archbishop Anthony, Bishop Nektary, whom many of us remember and honor, or their predecessor St Tikhon the Confessor, who illuminated our region with his blessed pastoral podvig for ten years before ascending to the patriarchal throne, and the many other worthy brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, faithful children of the Church of Christ and the wonderful pastors and father confessors in the Fatherland and the diaspora? Can we doubt that the main subject of their prayer and desires was the salvation of those enslaved by the atheists, by the torturers and persecutors of Russia? Can we doubt that they could possibly have remained unheard?
The Lord God, in His Providence, not only granted Russia deliverance from the godless regime and the oppression of the atheists, but through His unspeakable Mercy, He did this in such a way that no one who can see and hear could doubt it. Openly, before our very eyes, we see images, testimony, and clear evidence of the greatest of miracles which the All-Merciful Lord and Omnipotent Master performed in our land, in the Fatherland of our Russian ancestors, in the Home of the Theotokos. Everyone can hear the wondrous Paschal bells from all corners of the land without leaving home. The peals ring throughout all of Russia, to every corner. We can witness this by picking up a telephone or turning on the internet. Each of us can see for ourselves with today's technology the enormous number of people confessing, preaching and preserving with trepidation pure, canonical Orthodoxy, which moves openly and freely through electronic connections, delivering to every point on Earth our teachings, our hymns, our icons, the patristic works, the spiritual and cultural legacy of all true Christians. Could one have imagined just 20 years ago, during the days of the Chernobyl catastrophe, that the hour would come when we could type the name of St Ignatius Brianchaninov in any language, and the computer screen would instantly, like in a fairy tale, display not one or two but hundreds or even thousands of sources, materials, articles, not only about the works of St Ignatius themselves, but a copious flood of the followers of his teachings on asceticism, zealots of his memory, and of those who emulate him…
So in these next few days, as we examine the question of spiritual communion with the Church in Russia, let us constructively study the past and not condemn it with our sinful natures. I wish to reply to those brazen critics who have not studied the essence of these issues, who have not read the official documents, or who have ignored, for example, the act of repentance read by the present Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Alexy II, immediately following the fall of communism in Russia. Others are frankly too lazy to bother to look at the bountiful, obvious evidence of what is happening in Russia before our eyes, and that is a miracle and nothing else. I urge them to consider, to read for themselves, to take a breath and understand what has happened and is happening now in the Church in Russia, which the Omnipotent Lord God has deemed to resurrect, as He did Lazarus on the Fourth Day. Even as the decaying Lazarus was worthy of such great Divine condescension, we see that the Russian Church, with all the horrors she endured, is also worthy of such a great Mercy of God.
How can we who believe in the resurrection of Lazarus by the Lord doubt the resurrection in the flesh of the Russian Church? Proof of this stunning miracle is appearing every hour and every minute around us. We archpastors witness this, we who are the successors of the Holy Apostles by canonical right. Other witnesses include thousands of professional observers, researchers, theologians, teachers, scientists and artists. For this is not simply a notion that popped into someone's head one day, but exactly as it was during the days of the First Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; the news of this miracle has awed a great many witnesses, converting many to God, and by this spreading the news further still, deeper still, giving birth to many new miracles, as it always happens when the Grace-filled Power of the Holy Spirit acts.
The Resurrected Christ condescended to the doubt of Holy Apostle Thomas, who needed further proof; the Resurrected Christ defeated death and imprisoned Hell; the Resurrected Christ returned Lazarus from the dead and gave the blind the gift of sight and the gift to witness to Christ; the Resurrected Christ healed and pardoned the weak, the tax-collectors, the adultresses, the idle youth, the children of heathens, even the repentant thief in his hour of death upon the cross; the Resurrected Christ denounced and corrected the scribes and Pharisees; the Resurrected Christ made righteous through His friendship Joseph of Arimathea and Nikodim. May the Resurrected Christ now conquer in each of us all weakness, all sin, all temptation, all hostility, all misunderstanding and the spirit of pridefulness; may He grant his help not only to those of us chosen to attend this Council, but also all those who pray for us and who labor with us in these days of enormous responsibility. May He also help us now and in the future, everywhere, to follow Him, to submit to Him, the One, Victorious Lord, the Savior and Creator, the King and the Judge, to manifest His Holy, All-Merciful Divine Will, for His is all the glory.
Amen and Glory to God!