“Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ…”
How many blaring words have we heard about progress! We have been assured that mankind has finally emerged from the dark ages, maturing, becoming civilized. At every step progress is praised! Everything is done in the name of progress.
It would seem that wars in which millions have died remained behind in the 20th century, and that now finally peace is assured forever. True, wars still broke out here and there, but they were far away, not nearby. We tried not to hear about remote and “local” conflicts, turning away our gaze. Everything here was fine. It appeared to us that broad and reliable paths to “cooperation, peace and security in Europe” were established. And it seemed that we could ignore the fact that our enlight-ened Europe has forgotten God-such negligence creeps slowly; the Word of God is drowned out by the heralding of other “values.”
The Apostle warned us against such spiritual carelessness: “For when they shall say, peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
This doubt has come crashing down. The beginning of the 21st century has demonstrated for us the truth: Europe has again collapsed into the darkest barbarism-internecine war. We can no longer avert our gaze. It is impossible to hope that the contemporary world is incapable of wreaking an even more horrifying, all-encompassing world war. We see the roots of this catastrophe: guile, hy-pocrisy, deceit. Thence comes increasing animosity which desires to crush everything beneath its feet. To eliminate all that is humane in people. To force yesterday’s brothers to hate each other for-ever. To designate the guilty, pronounce sentence upon them and immediately, to the degree possi-ble, execute the sentence. Meanwhile, everyone is guilty-those near and those far away, from the distant West to the remote East. The roots of war lie in sin. Every sin is a struggle against God. Eve-ry single one. Every sin of each one of us. Where the concept of sin is obfuscated, there division and war emerge.
Two brotherly nations have entered into this war who emerged from a single root. At one time they were united as an Eastern Slavic tribe and were both baptized in the Dniepr River. For centu-ries they lived side by side, educated and enlightened together. Again and again they suffered from external invasions, and from internal strife.
Both peoples were at times deprived of their proper faith. Some departed to disbelief, others to heresy. Heresy long ago attempted to force its way into these expanses, century by century. Some-times it would meet resistance, but sometimes it was allowed to set down roots. The result was blood and death, every time, external and internal wars, “civil” wars.
The power of the wicked one was established upon fraud. But the mature Christian who still has a heart and possesses spiritual reason, can and must discern between deceit and truth. Alas, when a person grows complacent, his attention wanes, his reason loses acuity, and he turns to an “easier” or “comfortable” Christianity. The desire to be nourished by the Sacraments of the Church wanes, the attraction to these Mysteries weakens, and a person no longer strives to spiritually understand his life, to build a righteous life on the foundation of the True Faith. Faith is relegated to being merely “cultural tradition,” it become an element of folklore, a trait of nationalist sentiment.
And so first material and then fleshly desire completely consumes the person, and within him the yearning for that which is truly Supreme--the Kingdom of Heaven, for God, the Father of all--dies out. Then the words of the Lord’s Prayer, from the very beginning, “Our Father…” to the final words petitioning for the rejection of the Evil One, and all of the words of Christ, turn into an emp-ty shell. All this because heresy, disbelief, false belief and atheism all eliminate God from the heart of man. At the same time, the deceived and hopeless person, who is yet ensconced in his pride, be-lieves that he is more free and more righteous than before. It was this very self-confidence that the Holy Fathers named “prelest’” or spiritual self-delusion.
Genuine and all-encompassing freedom and righteousness only lies in God. In the One God is the true victory, victory over death and all the powers of Hades, victory which we celebrate today. We Christians are first of all citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom, and only after that are we citizens of worldly nations of all varieties, which sometimes, as bitter as it may be, fight each other.
But there is a task that is always within our power to perform. Every day of our lives we are free to apply our abilities to this effort, exert our spiritual powers. This labor lies in establishing our souls in Christ, creating peace within our souls. Christ is our peace. He did not abhor our sinfulness, but overcame it by descending to our world: “reconcile both unto God… having slain enmity,” or in oth-er words, “destroying war,” “by the Cross” (Ephesians 2:14, 16). He desires to resurrect us from our sinful darkness and elevate us “into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Every single one of us.
And what does He command us? To be vigilant, preserve ourselves and not be tempted, not be horrified nor confounded-not only during war but during any terrible events “which are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26, Matthew 24:4-44). Holy Apostle Peter likewise emboldens us:“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing hap-pened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12). Let us collect our hearts together, dear brothers and sisters, for we are nourished from a single bright and pure wellspring from which our common forefathers drank-the fathers of Kievan Rus, of Pechersky Monastery, of Kherson, of Pochaev…
Pascha will be bright for us all if we promise to Christ the Life-Giver to observe our pure faith, without mixing it with human and un-Christian interpretations-but the way our ancestors pre-served it, Holy Olga and Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles, Holy Fathers Antony and Feodosy of the Caves, as St Job and Amfilokhy of Pochaev did, and during the godless time of troubles, the Kievan Holy New Hieromartyr Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky) and the multitude of Holy New Martyrs, who preserved their dedication to Christ on earth, who now pray together with us and all of the Angels of the Church of Christ: “Let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the Only Sinless One!”