Father Dimitry Dudko is an Orthodox pastor placed in the
middle of the frightful Communist reality which Solzhenitsyn has described so
eloquently. His attitude is not philosophical or literary, as is
Solzhenitsyn's in his writings; his concern is only immediate and
down-to-earth: how do I survive right now, this minute, in the jaws of the
anti-Christian society which has all the weapons it wants to fight against
Christian faith? And how do I help my fellow men to do this, and above
all my spiritual children?
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For six or seven years now, Fr. Dimitry has been crying out
his answer in the form of sermons, articles, and even a weekly
"newspaper" (actually a parish newsletter), all addressed to his
growing flock of converts (he has baptized over 5,000 adults himself) and to
anyone who will listen.
He has done this against tremendous odds, right in the jaws
of the atheist beast, as it were. His truthfulness and fiery faith have
made many enemies—sadly enough, even among Orthodox Christians. Some have
found him too emotional, too apocalyptic, too messianic—and it is true that
such a fiery, urgent, Orthodox preaching hasn't been heard in Russia and
probably the whole Orthodox world since the days of St. John of Kronstadt; many
Orthodox people have become self-satisfied with their "correct and
proper" Orthodoxy and are somehow offended when Orthodoxy is preached and
communicated so warmly to everyone who will listen. Others are infected
by the tragic suspiciousness of our times, largely inspired by the Communist
spy system, and simply do not trust him, some even suspecting him of being a
KGB agent. Still others miss his message because they want to check each
of his words for possible "heresies," and some of such ones have
thought that he is an "ecumenist" because he has no hostility towards
non-Orthodox Christians, even though he quite clearly distinguishes Orthodoxy
from their teachings.
Against these tremendous odds, both from outside—the
atheists—and inside—his own fellow Orthodox Christians—Fr. Dimitry apparently
has "broken." Everyone now knows of his famous
"confession" on Soviet television in June when, after five months in
prison and pressures we can scarcely imagine, he publicly repudiated his
articles and sermons and announced that "I assess my so-called struggle
against godlessness as a struggle against Soviet authority."
I think it is not too difficult to understand, in general
terms, what happened to him: he was "broken," not in his Orthodox
Christian faith (which he was perhaps not even asked to give up) but in his
sense of mission. Even before his arrest he wrote of his
"sleepless nights" wen he read of how his own Orthodox Russians
abroad were attacking him and spreading innuendoes about him: Why can he speak
so openly? How can he have such contacts abroad? Why do they let
him print a "newspaper"?
How petty we can sometimes become when face to face with
such an evident miracle as Fr. Dimitry's words in these past years! His
atheist torturers undoubtedly played to the full the doubts and suspicions and
accusations of his fellow Orthodox in order, finally, to make Fr. Dimitry, cut
off from contact with even his own family, doubt his own mission to speak the
saving Orthodox word when everyone seemed to be against him.
I think we in the free world who did not sufficiently value
and support Fr. Dimitry are at least partly to blame for his tragedy. As
far as we know, no one has been able to get into contact with Fr. Dimitry yet,
but one person who was able to speak briefly to his Matushka reports that she
could only say: "What have they done to him!?"