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THE MESSAGE OF FATHER DIMITRY


    But even if Fr. Dimitry's voice has now been silenced—which was obviously the aim of the atheists—his message remains for us.  Let us look now at some of its main points.

The Spiritual Battle of Our Times

    First of all, he looks realistically at the world and sees a tremendous battle going on: atheism is trying to swallow faith.  He sees this first-hand in the world's first atheist state, which placed constant pressure against believers of a kind that we can scarcely imagine, a pressure that often erupts into crude violence.
    Father Dimitry describes this battle in his Paschal sermon in 1977: "We are in the front lines, and this front line is everywhere.  We are surrounded by atheists on all sides.  There is no place where this is no shooting going on.  The press, art, theater, schools, institutions—everything has been occupied by the atheists.  The laws are all directed towards our suffocation."  As results of the influence of atheism, Fr. Dimitry notes the low level of morals in the Soviet Union, the destruction of the family, people's denseness to religious influence.  "Throughout the whole of Russia, one sees only the ruins of our people's inheritance, even though they try to cover up the ruins with the boxes of standardized houses."
    Fr. Dimitry himself suffered 81/2 years of imprisonment in a concentration camp in his youth for writing a religious poem, and in 1975 he was involved in a planned automobile "accident" that broke both his legs and barely left him alive.  He has felt the constant pressure both of the Soviet State and the Moscow Patriarchate to stop his religious activity.  We in the free world, although we can sense the godless air about us, are still left free to do whatever we want with regard to religious faith.  Fr. Dimitry faces this godless spirit of the times much more directly than we do.
    His answer to this battle is not a weak one, like ours is: we are satisfied with the freedom to worship as we wish, we easily mix a few hours weekly devoted to church matters with an overwhelming preponderance of worldly things in our lives; few of us are really transformed by Orthodox Christianity.  But Fr. Dimitry calls on Orthodox Christians to counter-attack.  He says: "Christianity must become the content of the whole life…  We must illuminate all questions with Christianity; it cannot be limited within strict bounds.  The Church at the present time must include also the club and the workers' assembly.  We must bring the Church to the life which is outside the church building…  The Christian cannot close himself up in some kind of shell; he must be pained over the pains of others." "Everyone who can respond must respond…  Atheism is a plague.  It must be stopped—otherwise it will spread over everyone, devouring everything."  He concludes his 1977 Paschal sermon with this cry: "Hear you, all you who can hear!  We are alive!  After all the frightful bombardments, we are alive!  But we need help.  In whatever way you can, help us.  Do not remain indifferent.  Indifference in our days is perdition, not only for us.  There should begin a decisive, final war for the liberation from captivity, for the salvation of all alive, a universal sacred war."  And he signs this sermon: "Priest Dimitry Dudko, soldier of the Russian army."
    Seeing reality in this way—that is, being really aware of what is happening in the world, and not closing his eyes to it as we in the free world so often do, insulated by our temporary freedom and prosperity, Fr. Dimitry speaks in a tone that is urgent and full of crisis.  He is constantly saying: Russia is perishing, the whole world is perishing—let us act, let us start being Christians right now!
    The tone of spiritual crisis is what has "turned off" some people in the West, even Orthodox people, from Fr. Dimitry—he is too "emotional," too "apocalyptic," too "messianic".  How blind and insensitive we are!  This is precisely the tone of true, Apostolic Christianity—the tone of St. John of Kronstadt, St. Cosmas of Aitolia, and all who are on fire with Christ's message of salvation.  This is precisely the tone of the Catacomb Church in Russia—the tone of crisis and urgency in the face of overwhelming evil—and one can well say that in Fr. Dimitry this aspect of the message of the Catacomb Church has surfaced in contemporary Russia—a message that is absent, not only in the Moscow Patriarchate, but in most of the Orthodox of the free world as well.  Our "Disneyland" experience in America has not equipped us to understand this sense of urgency, but Fr. Dimitry has begun to awaken us.
    And the situation is even worse than we might think; not only is the enemy outside, he is even within our own ranks.  Fr. Dimitry writes: "Many of us have fallen into captivity… our whole front is in captivity.  And there is something even worse: There is an internal corruption of the generals of the army.  The will to resist has become paralyzed.  Those who g out to battle are hindered by their own people in league with the enemy."  Let us not feel smug because we are not in the Moscow Patriarchate, whose generals (bishops) indeed have been corrupted and are paralyzed.  The Sergianist spirit of legalism and compromise with the spirit of the world is everywhere in the Orthodox Church today.  But we are called to be soldiers of Christ in spite of this!

Russia's Golgotha

    Solzhenitsyn spoke of Gulaga secular term; Fr. Dimitry speaks of Golgotha—the Christian understanding of the Soviet experience.  The central part of Fr. Dimitry's—and contemporary Russia's—message to us is that all the sufferings inflicted by atheism have a meaning—we can find Christ in them…  Here are a few passages of Fr. Dimitry's teaching:
    "In our land has occurred Golgotha; the torments of all the martyrs begin gradually to cleanse the air…  The present crucifixion of Christ in Russia, the persecutions and mockings only lead to the resurrection of faith in men…  This gives us strength, firmness, makes us better than we are now…  Let us imagine the state of our martyrs.  Did the thought of sinning occur to them at this moment?  No matter what kind of sinners they may have been in this minute they become saints… And those who suffer for those condemned to death also become better.  How many martyrs there have been in Russia—and therefore, how many holy feelings!  Will these holy feelings really give no fruit?  And perhaps we live and will live only by the feelings of the holy martyrs, being supported by them…  In our country now is Golgotha.  Christ is crucified.  Golgotha is not merely sufferings, but such sufferings as lead to resurrection and enlighten men…  Our time can be compared only with the first three centuries of Christianity, and perhaps then it was even easier; then they did not yet know all the refinements of subtle torture…  If one compares the religious state here and in the West, the balance is on our side.  Why?  Because here we have Golgotha, and there they don't.  Does an abundance of material goods give a religious rebirth? … Here we have nothing, but if people believe they are ready to die for their faith."
    Russia's experience is for the whole world: the martyrs are the seed of Christianity, and Russia's New Martyrs are the source of new life for Orthodox Christians not only there, but everywhere.  Suffering, Golgotha, martyrdom is what we lack in the West, and this is why our Christianity is so feeble; but we become stronger by learning of and participating in Russia's suffering.
    The resurrection of Russia is occurring…  In fact, Fr. Dimitry is a chief witness of this resurrection.  It is not merely the fact tat he has baptized so many thousands of people who have found Christ, or that he inspires his spiritual children to self-sacrificing Christian life; his own voice is a proof that Orthodox Christianity is coming back to life in Russia.  He is a forerunner of resurrected Russia, and the fact that he himself now seems to have fallen, that is, is no longer able to speak out as he did before, is only a proof that this resurrection is still in process.  It cannot be completed while atheism still reigns in Russia and the church organization bows down to the commands of the atheists; but it is presently underway and in God's time will produce its full fruits, despite the immense odds against it.

We Must Participate

    But Fr. Dimitry, for all his belief and hope in Russia's resurrection, still warns us that it will not happen without us, that is, each Orthodox believer.  In one of his final letters before his imprisonment he wrote: "It is precisely now that, not only for those living in Russia, but for the believers of the whole world also, the most responsible moment is approaching: when the resurrection that has begun will touch our souls…  One must begin increased prayer for all the persecuted in Russia…  All possible help should be shown to them…  If Russia is not resurrected, Golgotha threatens the whole world, and who knows whether this Golgotha will lead to resurrection; perhaps it will only be the Golgotha of the foolish thief.  Either resurrection or the perdition of everything—it is before such a choice that not only Russia, but the whole world now stands."
    And this is his final message to us—and the message of all of suffering Holy Russia today.5

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