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Examples of True Christianity


After mentioning these pitfalls I'd like to get back to the subject and mention some final ways we have in our Russian Church Outside of Russia today of increasing our awareness of Orthodoxy and helping us to value it more and use it better.

Our Orthodox faith comes down to us through tradition. This means it isn't something we just read about or rediscover through books -- it is something passed on from father to son, from one generation to the next, which we see being practiced around us by our fathers and brothers in the faith. If we are in living contact with these people who are passing down the tradition, "correctness" will not be such a temptation for us; we will be "hooked up" with the tradition. This doesn't mean we must believe every opinion we hear from seemingly pious people -- we have the writings of the Holy Fathers and the whole tradition of the Church to guide us if there are doubts or perplexities.

Some of those who pass on the Orthodox Faith have a special message for us. I'd like to mention here just three of those who have something to say to us: two of them died in the last few years, and some of you here knew them; another is still alive. All three are bound up with Russia which is now undergoing the terrible trial of atheist rule, and that also has something to say to us.

Archbishop Andrew of Novo-Diveyevo

The first of these men is Archbishop Andrew of Novo-Diveyevo, who died last year after a long and full life in the Church. He was just setting out in life when the Russian Revolution broke out, and he had to rethink his whole goal in life under the changed circumstances. What is life for, and what is worth doing in life if all the normal foundations of life can be so suddenly overthrown? Having known the warmth of Orthodoxy in childhood, he sought for it as an adult at first in vain, until he discovered that he himself had to go deeper and suffer for what he needed. He read Dostoyevsky, which deepened his view on life; he fell in with a non-Orthodox Christian group, which had fervor but couldn't satisfy his Orthodox soul. He found a priest who opened up to him the meaning behind the Church's services and customs. He read the Holy Fathers, and came hack to life from his earlier despair. And then he found the elders of Optina: Nectarius, who taught him what true godliness or piety is -- to keep everything of God's in honor; and the Elder Anatole, who gave him St. Tikhon's book "On True Christianity" and told him to live by it.

Wherever he was -- in Russia, Germany, or America -- he strove to establish an atmosphere of Christian warmth where other seekers could find the peace he had found. He saw that most of our Christian life is outward and cold, and he strove always to awaken the true inward life and warmth of Orthodoxy when it is deeply understood and practiced. He hated the "hothouse" Christianity of those who "enjoy" being Orthodox but don't live a life of struggling and deepening their Christianity. We converts can easily fall for this "hothouse" Orthodoxy, too. We can live close to a church, have English services, a good priest, go frequently to church and receive the Sacraments, be in the "correct" jurisdiction -- and still be cold, unfeeling, arrogant and proud, as St. Tikhon has said. In this way we will not grow because we don't have the sense of urgency and struggle that Vladika Andrew talked about. Once, when he only suspected that one of his spiritual children was growing comfortable in his Orthodoxy, he took him by the shoulders and literally shook him and told him: "Don't you be a hypocrite!"

You can read further about Archbishop Andrew and his Orthodox philosophy of life in a booklet published several years ago: "The Restoration of the Orthodox Way of Life." From Vladika Andrew we can learn that Orthodoxy is a matter of life and death, that it requires intense awareness and struggle, that it can't be "comfortable" unless it is fake.

Professor I.M.Andreyev

The second man I'd like to mention lived for many years right here in Jordanville. He was a
philosopher -- I.M. Andreyev. He belonged at first to the liberal intelligentsia, and only
gradually, in the first decade of the Revolution, did he come back to Orthodoxy, where he found the whole philosophy of life which the Western schools could not give. His pilgrimages to Sarov, Diveyevo, and other monasteries in Russia just before they were closed, deepened and made real his new-found faith. Then came his years of standing in the truth when he sided with the Catacomb Church in the terrible years of the 1920's and '30's.

He was a refined and philosophical thinker, but most of all he had an Orthodox heart, and he grieved most of all at seeing how few Orthodox people seem to care deeply for God and their faith and their fellow men. In his article "Weep," after describing how a young mother in New York City brutally killed her infant son, he addresses the Orthodox people: "All for one and one for all are guilty... Let each one think of himself... What were you doing on that evening when this unbelievable but authentic evil deed was performed? Perhaps it was your sin, your immoral deed, your malice, which turned out to be the last little drop which caused the vessel of evil to overflow. This is the way we must reflect, if we are Christians... Weep, brothers and sisters! Do not be ashamed of these tears... Let your tears be a fount of a different energy, an energy of good that fights against the energy of evil... Let these tears also awaken many of the indifferent."

Andreyev's burning concern shows us that we must have a deeply-feeling heart, or else we are not Christians. [On his life and philosophy, see "The Orthodox Word," 1971, no. 74.]

Father Dimitry Dudko

Finally, I'd like to mention one man who is alive today in Soviet Russia -- Father Dimitry
Dudko. He was born already after the Revolution, and came to Christ in the late Soviet period through the sufferings of living under the atheist rule and spending 81/2 years in prison camp. His words in recent years speak with extraordinary power for us Orthodox Christians outside of Russia. One might disagree with him on a few theoretical points, but his heart is so right, so Orthodox. In Fr. Dimitry is the same concern and feeling that Andreyev found largely lacking in the West; the same intensity and struggle Vladika Andrew preached. Once, when someone asked him at his question and answer sessions several years ago after the All-night Vigil, recorded in his book, "Our Hope" -- Isn't Christianity in the West better off, being in freedom? -- he replied: No. There they have spirituality with comfort, and you can't expect much from that; here in Russia we have martyrs and suffering, and from that can come resurrection and new life.

Actually, if you take seriously what Orthodox teachers like Archbishop Andrew, Andreyev, and Father Dimitry are saying, you can come to think there isn't much hope for us -- we're too soft, too unaware, too shallow, too outward. Well, it's good to think like that -- it might make us begin to wake up and struggle. Let the words of these fervent souls be a warning for us.

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