We are in a privileged position of peace and freedom, and this is dangerous
for us. We can sit in the midst of our Orthodox treasures, the treasures that
give salvation that no one else has -- and be satisfied with our situation and
so be totally fruitless. If we have difficulty in being Orthodox -- then let us
rejoice, for that means we must struggle, and there is hope that we won't
wither and die spiritually.
-- Here and Now
Often we have the wrong idea about our situation. We think: "If only I
could go somewhere else, change my situation, and the like, my problems would
be solved"; but usually this is not right at all. We must start right now,
wherever we are. If it is difficult, that is all the better -- it means we have
to fight for our Christianity; and if you have to fight and struggle, you
become more aware.
But there are also opportunities in our privileged position, and we should
First of all, perhaps many of you don't know that there are many contacts
now between people in Russia
and people outside. We can become informed of what is going on there. Read Fr.
Dimitry Dudko's books, or his little newspaper. There
are also Western sources which give fresh information on what is happening to
Orthodox Christians in Russia -- Fr. Victor Potapov's "Orthodox Monitor,
the Keston News Service, "Aid to the Russian Church," and so forth.
Find out about these suffering people and pray for them. Do you know about Nun
Valeria, arrested and placed in a psychiatric hospital for selling belts with
the Ninetieth Psalm embroidered on them? About Father George
Calciu in Romania, now in prison for his Christian sermons? About Alexander
Ogorodnikov, imprisoned for holding a Christian discussion group? About Vladimir Osipov, the Russian patriot and samizdat publisher?
About Fr. Gleb Yakunin, Fr. Vasily Romanchuk, Sergei Yermolaev, Igor Ogurtsov -- the list is long. We have to start praying
for these people who are suffering for their faith.
And we can help them: we have their prison addresses and can send them letters. Even if they don't receive them, the prison
officials do, and the treatment of prisoners with "friends abroad"
noticeably improves. Through "Orthodox Action" you can send
literature in regular envelopes. There are even ways of getting books through.
You can write to Fr. Dimitry Dudko -- some letters get through, and and he even
replies. Everyone can do something, and every bit helps. In the West we've
grown too passive -- now is the time when we can express our care and concern.
Fool's Paradise is Lost
Perhaps even more, we can learn from the suffering people of Russia
and other Communist
countries. I don't want to frighten you, but we'd better face the fact that
what they're suffering now, or something similar, is probably coming here, and
soon. We're living in the last times, Antichrist is close, and what happens in Russia
and other countries like it is the normal experience for our times. Here in the
West we're living in a fool's paradise which can and probably will soon be
lost. Let's start to prepare -- not by storing food or such outward things that
some are already doing in America,
but with the inward preparation of Orthodox Christians.
Have you ever asked yourself, for example, the question how you will survive
if you are placed in prison or concentration camp, and especially in the
punishment cells of solitary confinement? How are you going to survive? You
will go crazy in a very short time if your mind has nothing to occupy itself
with. What will you have in your mind? If you are filled with worldly
impressions and have nothing spiritual in your mind; if you are just living
from day to day without thinking seriously about Christianity and the Church,
without becoming aware of what Orthodoxy is, and you are placed in a situation like
solitary confinement where there is nothing to do, nowhere to go, no movies to
see, just staying in one spot facing four walls -- you will scarcely survive.
The Romanian Protestant pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, has a tape devoted to
this subject which is very interesting. In a crisis situation like that, when
all our books and outward props are taken away, we can depend on nothing except
what we've acquired within ourselves. He says that all the Bible verses he knew
didn't help him much; abstract knowledge of dogmas didn't help much -- what is
important is what you have in your soul. You must have Christ in your soul. If
He is there, then we Orthodox Christians have a whole program which we could
use in prison. We can remember the Orthodox Calendar -- which saints and feasts
are commemorated when. We don't have to know the whole Calendar, but from our
daily life in the Church we will remember the milestones of the Church year;
whatever we have stored up in our hearts and minds will come back to us. Whatever
prayers and hymns we know by heart will help us, we
will have to sing them every day. You will have to have people to pray for.
The world-wide dispersion of our Russian Church Abroad is ideal for this.
You can go over the whole globe in your mind, one country or continent at a
time, and pray for those you know, even if you can't think of their names --
bishops and abbesses, parishes and priests both Russian and missionary, the
monasteries in the Holy Land, prisoners in Russia and Romania and other lands under
the atheist yoke, the missions in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa where it is
very difficult, the monks of Mt. Athos, the suffering Old Calendarists of
Greece. The more of these you are aware of and praying for now, the better it
will be for you when you have to suffer yourself, the more you will have to
take with you into prison.
As Andreyev says, it is "one for all and all for one" -- we are
involved in practicing our
Christianity in a world that has become atheist, whether or not open
persecution is going on.
Every Christian has a talent from God, and He will ask what we have done
with what He gave us. In Soviet Russia and other Communist countries, there is
the talent of suffering for Christ and being faithful in the midst of trials.
In the free world, the talent given most of us is the talent of freedom: we
have been given the freedom to practice our faith and the opportunity through
our abundance of Orthodox texts to become fully aware of it and deepen it
within ourselves. But this Orthodoxy must be the true Christianity that St.
Tikhon describes -- the Orthodoxy not of the mind but of the heart. This kind
of Orthodoxy cannot be acquired overnight; it requires suffering, experience,
testing. But first of all it requires resolve. If each one of us puts this
resolve in his heart, if we take our Christian Faith seriously and resolve to
be faithful to it, there can be a literal resurrection of true Christianity in
our midst, something that Fr. Dimitry Dudko and others mention as beginning to happen
Let me end with the words of St. Herman, whose feast we are
celebrating -- he also was one of those concerned ones who made full use of the
opportunities given them. In the famous incident when he asked the officers of
a ship what they loved most of all, and then put them to shame by telling them
that only God is worth loving so much, he ended his instruction with these
words, which you will find on some icons of St. Herman: "From this day,
from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all." A very simple thing -- which is exactly what we all must do.
May God give us the strength for it, by the prayers of His great Saint, Herman
of Alaska. Amen.
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