Sermon of Archbishop Afanassy (Martos) on the Feast Day
of Holy Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles
On July 15/28, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of Holy Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles. His memory is holy for all Russians, whatever their religious or political viewpoints. This holiday is religious, it is national, a state and cultural holiday, because St Vladimir lay the foundations upon which the thousand-year-old Palace of the Russian faith, the Russian nation, the Russian State and Russian culture were built. He is the spiritual ancestor of the Russian people, including today’s Ukrainians and Belarussians.
Prince Vladimir of Kiev was first of the Russians to fall in love with the Kingdom of Heaven, choosing it for his people. He was first to embark on the way of the Cross with the entirety of his people. This followed a great personal struggle for him, a powerful, inner struggle.
Receiving the Orthodox Faith in Christ, Vladimir knew that he was selecting the most burdensome of the three proposed faiths. Chroniclers attest to the fact that he spent a great deal of time deliberating before making his decision. He knew that the Christian faith was the path of the Cross, that this means first of all a break from his wicked past, a departure from errant ways and from his old soul. He also knew that it was not enough to topple the idol of the false god Perun and sink it into the Dniepr River, but that first and foremost, he and each of his subjects needed to discard all of their idols from their souls. He decided upon this and achieved great success.
As he baptized Rus, St Vladimir became a pioneer of the greatness of Russia and the holiness within its people, and also a political pioneer who made greatness and holiness a matter of state. A new Rus stemmed from this, a new people, a new path and culture. St Vladimir, by baptizing the Russian people, brought them out of the long night of Rus into the bright Russian day. The dark heathen Russian masses were made, through baptism, the “Beautiful Sun” of all the nations in the world.
If we follow the life’s path of the Russian people from the time of St Vladimir, we will see that it followed the spiritual path of their princely Illuminator. Yet Bolshevism distorted this path. The wicked and dark spirit which reigns in our Motherland is sparing no effort to divert the river of Russian life from the Sun of Christ, and force it into a bleak, subterranean darkness…