On July 8, 2012, at Krasny Hall of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia received a youth delegation representing six dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which is traveling to Russia to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the reestablishment of canonical unity within the Russian Orthodox Church. The following is His Holiness’ address:
I would like to express my heartfelt greetings to you, Vladyka Theodosius, and you, Vladyka Panteleimon, and our youth from the Russian Church Abroad.
I am happy to see you, and happy that by God’s will and, I am convinced, by the intercession of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors, relations between the part of the Russian world abroad and the part which occupies the historic territory of Holy Russia continue to develop. May God grant that this continues.
Here in Russia, you will be able to visit holy sites connected with the Royal Passion-bearers. And in connection with the celebration of the feast day of Righteous Prince Peter and Princess Fevronia, which is even a state holiday called the “Day of Family, Love and Devotion,” one cannot but remember the wonderful examples of the family life given to us by Holy Passion-Bearer Nicholas II and his wife. They illustrate how the relationship between a man and woman is based not on egotistical principles, with each trying to gain more attention from the other, more money, greater comfort, but how a relationship between a man and wife are to be founded on the principle of sacrifice, when a person gives himself over to the other. In my opinion, this is the key to human happiness.
How are we to determine whether a husband is good or bad, if a wife good or bad? A person was created in such a way that he filters everything through himself. The hand was made to bring things near, even an infant pulls a blanket upon himself. There is nothing sinful about this—the Lord wished to create mankind this way, for otherwise man would not be a viable living organism and would die. The fact that a person pulls things towards himself is a natural inclination. In order to decide if a man would be a good husband or not, if a woman would be a good wife or not, we use an irrational, irresponsible criteria: “what do I get out of this?” We do not necessarily use these words, but we sense it internally. A good leader is one who you can approach and who will listen to you. A good teacher is someone who hears your question, hears your troubles, who devotes time to you, helps you, gives of himself. It may be hard for him, for he has his own matters to tend to, his own children, his own time, but he devotes some time to you, and then you say “What a wonderful person,” because he gave something to you.
Yet what if you approach a teacher or a leader with a question, a request for help, and he responds “I am sorry, I have no time?” If this happens a second, a third time, you would say, “what an uncaring, bad person.”
So in order to discern if a husband would be a good one or not, if a wife would be a good one or not, one must determine what the person can do for you. At the same time, you must decide what you are prepared to do for the other. A good marriage is one in which the husband give himself to his wife, and a wife gives herself to her husband. This is in fact love itself.
That which the modern world understands as love—enchantment, pleasure—is a fleeting thing. People of mature age know by experiencing family life that this quickly fades. What then bonds people together? People are bound by true love, which is always based on self-sacrifice.
It is just such an example that the family of Tsar Nicholas II and his spouse gave us. Their self-sacrifice even to the grave, to the terrible moment of their execution, this is love that transcends the all earthly bounds and ascends to the other life.
So it is wonderful that today you have begun your program in prayer here in church. I am very glad that we were able to pray together, and that this occurred on the day of SS Peter and Fevronia. You are young, you are still finding your way in life, and your prayer to these saints, who are considered the protectors of the family, of love and devotion, has great power.
I hope that you preserve the words I uttered today in your minds, in order to establish the proper relationship with your chosen ones, in order to clearly grasp what lies at the foundation of human happiness. Tugs-of-war, conflicts with your husband, fights with your wife, will never lead to happiness, for happiness always demands self-sacrifice.
I would also like to talk about your participation in our festival “For Life 2012,” dedicated to the study of various social technologies which can support the family institution. You came from Western countries where secularization has been powerful, where civil, liberal ideals reign, where there is no understanding of sin. There are conceptions of law—are you abiding by the law or not—but the concept of sin is absent, and this leads to disorientation.
Once I had the opportunity to hear the confession of a Stanford professor, an American of Swiss origin. His father was Russian, his mother Swiss, he was born in the Soviet Union, but left very soon, spent his whole life in America and was a very successful mathematician—he chaired the applied mathematics department at Stanford University.
I asked him: “Have you ever made confession?” He said “Never.” Now this was a real scholar, a Nobel laureate, with a bit of academic snobbery, he had a condescending attitude, the way scholars usually view us commoners. I responded “Would you like to?” “Yes, I would like to make confession.” “Then tell me your sins.” “Me? I haven’t any sins.” “Well, you had a wife, you cheated on her, she died, and you lived with another woman.” “But is that a sin?” I replied “And then you could not live for long with your second wife and moved in with a third, who also died. And this is not a question of how much they suffered because you left them, but when something happened in their lives, you did not have the strength to sacrifice yourself and remain with these sick women to the end.”
It was a very long conversation, and I am not sure that I convinced him that he is a sinner, that this was a sin he must repent for. This doesn’t mean that the man was heartless. I grew to love him a great deal, one could say he was my friend. But what truly prevented this man from seeing his sin was the lack of the spirit of self-sacrifice.
In the societies where you live, the concept of sin is disappearing, but at the same time other very important ideas are fading, the family institution is being destroyed. The family institution can only exist when it has a moral basis. Otherwise everything must be outlined in marriage contracts, but even these don’t help—people still leave each other. It is only possible to preserve the family when there is a strong moral sensibility.
Today we recognize that the crisis facing family life is very grave even in Russian society, and in Ukraine, in Belarus—throughout the territory of Holy Russia. That is why we are making every effort to at least halt this dangerous process of the destruction of family relations. I hope that you talk about that, this is a good common ground for us and our young brothers and sisters abroad.
It also seems to me that it would be very good for you to discover our humanitarian services—at least in Moscow. Fifteen hundred volunteers work in Moscow so selflessly that they inspire people who are far from the Church. You know about the terrible forest fires we had no long ago; well, it was our volunteers who took the front line in helping the victims. This was such an impressive example, and was widely disseminated in the mass media, that many people joined in the effort, and I think this was a very important contribution by the Church into the spiritual life of our society.
You will also learn about the Hospital of St Alexei, and the center which helps young mothers, and the Mercy Bus, which gathers up our homeless, whose numbers, unfortunately, are growing, and probably other projects.
I would like to wish you Divine aid in your work to the benefit of the Church, in your personal lives, in your studies, and that the Lord help you ascend “from strength to strength.” I rejoice that we have prayed together here today. May God help you in all things. And to each of you I give a little icon of St Sergius of Radonezh with my blessing and a book I recently published. May the Lord save you!
Press Service of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.