I have spoken about the Orthodox revival in Russia,
but I have only mentioned three representatives of it. This is because I
wanted to discuss the quality of it rather than the quantity.
Actually, there are many touching stories that could be told of the recovery
and exercise of Orthodox faith in Russia
today. The writings of Fr. Dimitry contain many of these stories—I would
advise you all to read his book Our Hope, which has now appeared in
English. We know the names of quite a few people in Russia
who have found Orthodox faith and begun to live and suffer for it.
Among these, one could name Vladimir Osipov, who
found faith in a concentration camp after meeting a priest of the Catacomb
Church there; later he started a
samizdat Orthodox patriotic publication in the spirit of the 19th-century
Slavophiles, for which he is still imprisoned.6
There is Alexander Ogorodnikov, who founded a
religious discussion seminar which was persecuted as if it were a political
conspiracy; after a year in prison for "parasitism," he is now
awaiting trial for "anti-Soviet agitation."7
Vasily Shipilov has spent the last 29 years in
psychiatric hospitals, where he has been made a cripple and is constantly
beaten for making the sign of the Cross.8
Lev Regelson, 39-year-old father of five children,
leader of a Christian seminar and author of The Tragedy of the Russian
Church, the first book from within Russia to defend the hierarchs of the
Catacomb Church and speak openly against Sergianism; he is now arrested.9
Father Gleb Yakunin, founder of the Committee for the
Defense of Believers' Rights, a selfless worker for others despite the needs of
his own family of three children—also now in prison.10
Igor Ogurtsov, founder of the Christian Social Union
in the 1960's, who has now served 13 of his 20 year term, but, although still
only 42, will probably not live out the rest of the term due to ill treatment.11
Archimandrite Gennady, organizer of missions and
monasteries of the Catacomb Church.
Nun Valeria, committed to a psychiatric hospital for
embroidering the 90th psalm on belts and selling them for pennies.
The list could go on and on. These are all people born
in the Soviet era, most of them young, who have found
Orthodox faith in the most impossible of conditions, and have kept it through
years of prison and torture.
The Resurrection of Russia
and Our Part in It
What do all these examples say to us?
Let us have no illusions—the kind of deep Christianity they
know is not accessible to us. We are the products of Disneyland
and a society of fakery and plastic everything—including plastic Christianity
and plastic Orthodoxy. Let us be humble enough to recognize it. (I
am not saying, by the way, that one should be forbidden to go to Disneyland
or should be constantly scowling—I am only saying that we should be aware of
our crippled state and the depth of the true Christianity of suffering.)
We can begin to become aware. We can let the
sufferings of our fellow Orthodox in Russia
add a new dimension of seriousness to our life. We must seek to find out
more about them, and we must begin to pray for them. In the early
centuries of Christianity the prayer of Christians for those undergoing
imprisonment, slave-labor, and martyrdom was a tremendous source of strength
not only for those suffering, but for those praying for them as well. It
can be the same for us today. Let us gather their names and pray for them
in church and at home.
The martyrs are the seed of Christianity. As Father
Dimitry has said many times, it cannot be that the New Martyrs of the
much-suffering Russian land will not bring froth fruit, a blossoming of true
Christianity—first of all in Russia,
but also in every place that takes the sufferings of Russian Christians to
That which Russia
and other countries have experienced is coming here—in precisely what form we
cannot say, and we don't need to become hysterical over this prospect; but it
is obvious that our privileged freedom and prosperity cannot last long in a
world that is ever more falling into slavery and poverty. We have been
warned. Let us learn from the example of those who have suffered before
It is a law of the spiritual life that where there is Golgotha—if
it is genuine suffering for Christ—there will be resurrection. This
resurrection first of all occurs in human hearts, and we do not need to be too
concerned what outward from it might take by God's will. All signs point
to the fact that we are living at the end of the world, and any outward
restoration of Holy Orthodox Russia will be short-lived. But our inward
spiritual resurrection is what we should be striving for, and the events in Russia
give us hope that, in contrast to all the imitation and fake Christianity and
Orthodoxy that abounds today, there will yet be a resurrection of true,
suffering Christianity, not only in Russia, but wherever hearts have not become
entirely frozen. But we must be ready for the suffering that must precede
Are we in the West ready for it? Golgotha
does not mean the incidental sufferings we all go through in this life.
It is something immense and deep, which cannot be relieved by taking an aspirin
or going to a movie. It is what Russia
has gone through and is now trying to communicate to us. Let us not be
deaf to this message. By the prayers of all the New Martyrs, may God give
us the strength to endure the trials coming upon us and to find in them the
resurrection of our souls!
1 Unknown to Fr. Seraphim and most of the
people present, Yury Mashkov had died of cancer only three days before this
lecture was given. (Ed. note).
2 La Reniassance Russe, 1978, no. 4, pp. 12-17.
3 Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The
Gulag Archipelago Two (Harper and Row, New York, 1975), pp. 615-616.
4 Religion in Communist
Dominated Areas, 1975, nos. 10-12.
5 As recently as October 10. 1987, Fr. Dimitry wrote an address
to the world, entitled "Worse Than Any Imprisonment,"
which he concluded as follows:
"May God grant that a new beginning will be blessed in
our much-suffering land, and that all will be able to freely take a breath of
fresh air. I believe in the prophecies of St. Seraphim of Sarov, that Pascha will be sung in an unscheduled
must say a new word—I also believe in this prophecy of Dostoyevsky.
"I believe and see that the fate of the whole world
also depends on the fate of Russia.
The Millennium of Christianity in Russia
is an all-Christian jubilee, a most meaningful date, and it says a lot to the
whole world. May it be so, may it be so! (Ed. note).
6 Osipov was released some time after Fr. Seraphim gave this
talk. He is now publishing the magazine Zemla in Moscow.
7 Ogorodnikov was released seven years after this, on February 14, 1987. (Ed. Note).
8 At last report (May 28, 1987), Shipilov is still in a
psychiatric hospital in the Krasnoyarsk
region. (Ed. Note).
9 Regelson, now age 47, has reportedly been released. (Ed.
10 Fr. Gleb was released in March, 1987. In May he was
reinstated as a priest in a parish near Moscow,
but he is being closely monitored. (Ed. Note).
11 Now 50 years old, Ogurtsov is presently serving a term of
exile. (Ed. Note).
Reprinted from The Orthodox Word
Vol. 24, No. 1 (138) January-Febuary, 1988
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