HOMILY FOR THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD
Although Apostle Peter had confessed Jesus Christ as Messiah, he and the other apostles were still far away from understanding that the promised Messiah was not only to be a King from the seed of David, but also a suffering servant Who would take upon Himself an ignominious death. For Peter such a thought was so unbearable, so incompatible with everything he knew of Christ, that he began to berate Christ for revealing it, and in response received from Christ an incredibly harsh rebuff, in which the Lord stated with complete certainty that all attempts to make Him turn aside from His service, suffering, and death come from hell and have the prince of darkness as their origin. Moreover, the Lord speaks not only of the fact that He must die, but also says that everyone who wishes to be His follower must follow the same course.
During the time of Christ’s life on earth crucifixion was a death intended for slaves, hardened criminals, and traitors. No Roman citizen could be crucified without special sanction from Caesar. The cross was a universal symbol of ignominy, torture, and death, and when Christ said that his followers must carry this instrument of execution with them through life, such words elicited horror and protest among His disciples. Speaking of the cross, Christ did not mean that all the small difficulties which we encounter in life represent such a cross. He spoke primarily of the fact that we have to die within ourselves. This is most difficult, more fearful than all suffering, and seems impossible to man. Now, as in those times, many come to Christ to have Him fulfill all their needs and desires, but the Lord turns out to be the Messiah Who requires us to die an ignominious and torturous death within ourselves, killing off our selfish interests. In order to fulfill oneself, one must reject one’s own ego and follow Christ.
And today the Lord shows us what it means to confess Him as the Messiah and to follow Him, what it means for a person to fulfill himself through self-denial. His Face dazzled, because He became transfigured in front of His three disciples. He revealed His glory, which He had had “before the world ever was,” as Apostle John the Theologian tells us. And then they saw that there was no one there except Jesus. The Lord was the Divine center from which all rays issued, and He infinitely surpassed both Moses and Elijah – the Law and the prophets, although He was united with them. It was revealed to the disciples that the commandment on love, upon which, as the Lord says, “hang the entire Law and the prophets,” was not simply the most perfect morality, but Divine life itself, without which a person cannot become a person, and for the attainment of which he joyously desires to die within himself, to become dead to the darkness contained within each sin, and to become dead to the egoism which comprises the darkness of the entirety of all sins. It is this Christ’s love which shone forth on the Mount of Tabor, because He was the first to love us even to hell and the horror of death.
The Transfiguration occurred not so much for the sake of the Lord as for the sake of His disciples: He became transfigured before them, and a voice from heaven spoke to them. Even if they did not fully understand Him then, nevertheless, this was a decisive moment in the revelation to them of the mystery of God and the mystery of man, and although they had to be silent on this subject until by means of His death on the Cross came His Resurrection, for them this always remained the foundation of their preaching of the joy that would envelop the entire world, and which they announced on the basis of “having witnessed His grandeur.”
We celebrate this feast so that our faith would not be incomplete, so that hearing the words of Apostle Peter: “Lord, how good it is for us to be here!” – we would not forget what is good and what is bad, so that seeing this extraordinary light we would always distinguish light from dark. Never yet has it been so bad in the world, never yet has it been as dark as at present. How dark it becomes all around! With each passing year we see with greater realism how the world lies in iniquity, and how darkness thickens in the world. But “the light shines in the darkness,” and no darkness can overcome it. Christ, the Sun of truth, shines as before in the darkness of our life, and sending us today the sweetness of earthly fruits, as though from the Garden of Eden, He speaks to us of the fact that the world must be transfigured by love, which none of us has within himself, but which He is offering to us. And we understand that the mount of Transfiguration is always sweeter than the daily service, sweeter than the cross. However, the mount of Transfiguration is given to us precisely to imbue us with strength for our daily service, to make us capable of following the way of the cross. This is the radiant light with which the Lord wishes to encompass the entire world. The Holy Church tells us that present suffering is incommensurate with eternal glory, and that our brief and light suffering produces eternal glory in abundance. For our present temporary suffering is worth nothing in comparison with the glory which will be revealed within us, if only we suffer with Him in order to be glorified with Him.
DORMITION OF THE HOLY VIRGIN
The feast of the Dormition is the last great feast in the Church calendar year. It is preceded by a two-week fast.
The glorious lot of the ever-blessed Virgin in the work of God’s salvation of the world made Her whole life wonderful and exemplary. After the Crucifixion of Christ, the Mother of God was taken to live in the house of Her adopted son, the Apostle John. Tradition notes than even after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, the Mother of God remained in Jerusalem, visiting those places where the Saviour of the world had preached, suffered, and died. She did not want to leave the country that was dear and holy to Her. When King Herod Agrippa began to persecute the Church, both the pagans and the Jews, indignant of the respect that the Mother of God was receiving from the Christians, wanted to kill Her. It was during this time that She traveled with Apostle John to Ephesus. Church tradition also has this as the time of Her visit to Cyprus to Bishop Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead after four days, and to Mount Athos. When the persecution ended, the Mother of God returned to Apostle John’s house at Zion in Jerusalem.
Once, when She went to the Mount of Olives to pray, Archangel Gabriel appeared and spoke of Her approaching departure from this world. Upon returning home, She told Apostle John all that the Archangel had said to Her, and started preparing Herself for Her final day on earth. Friends and relatives gathered, and eleven of the apostles were miraculously transported from various parts of the world to Her deathbed. They were all amazed to see each other there. When Apostle John explained that the Mother of God would soon be departing this world, they understood why God had brought them together and became sad. But She comforted them, saying: “Do not cry and darken My happiness with your sadness. I am going to My Son and your God, and you will bury My body and return each to your work.” As the time of Her death approached, the room shone with a divine light, the roof disappeared, and a wondrous sight appeared before all: the Lord Jesus Christ descended from heaven surrounded by many angels. All looked upon this wondrous sight with awe and reverence, and when they approached Her bed, the holy body of the Mother of God shone radiantly, and the fragrance of incense pervaded the room.
The apostles carried the body of the Mother of God through the city to Gethsemane, to be buried at Her request in the tomb of Her family and Joseph. They buried Her body, sealed the tomb with a stone, and remained there at the site in prayer for three days. On the third day Apostle Thomas arrived and was very saddened that he did not find the Mother of God alive. To make him feel better, the other apostles rolled away the stone to let him pay his respects to the body. But on entering the tomb, they found that the body was not there – only the winding sheet. They returned home to partake of a communal meal, at which they always left a place for the Resurrected Lord. After the meal, they raised aloft the bread left for Christ and exclaimed: “Lord, Jesus Christ, help us.” And they heard a choir of angels, and when they looked up, they saw the Holy Virgin surrounded by angels. She greeted them, saying: “Rejoice, for I am with you through all the days.” Then the apostles were filled with joy, and instead of using the usual words, they exclaimed: “Most Holy Mother of God, help us.” And now they understood and believed that upon the third day after Her dormition, the Mother of God had been resurrected.
Thus, the dormition of the Mother of God is not a sad event, but a joyous one. Her death was but a short sleep, after which followed Her resurrection and ascension to heaven. From the very beginning the Church saw the Mother of God as the Intercessor for all of mankind. She is the haven of all the mothers in the world. She teaches us how to live in total faithfulness to the will of God. She, Who amid all trials preserved in Her heart the words of Divinity, is an example to us of faithfulness, love, and service.
ON PASSING THROUGH DEATH INTO ETERNAL LIFE
(From a discourse on the day of the Dormition of the Theotokos)
As man approaches death, eternity already begins to unfold before him; he already approaches its borders. He continues to see earthly objects, though dimly and hazily; he continues to hear earthly sounds, though indistinctly; he continues to experience some human feelings, though they are mixed: but he is already facing another existence. He sees objects and manifestations that are unseen to others, he hears extraordinary sounds, he foresees that which cannot be known to us in a natural manner. A few minutes more – and man steps over the threshold of eternity. Suddenly the form of his existence changes, his soul sees himself in his body; now he sees distant objects not with his physical eyes, but directly with his mind, and that which he formerly could see only in his mind’s eye, he now sees directly with his eyes; he speaks not with the articulate sounds of speech, but mentally, and that which he formerly could only imagine in his mind, he now articulates; he does not touch objects with his hands, but with his senses and feelings, while the most delicate objects that were formerly elusive and intangible to him, he now embraces as though with his hands; he moves not with his feet, but with his willpower, and that which he could formerly approach only with great difficulty, very slowly, across vast expanses of place and time, he now reaches instantaneously, and physical barriers no longer exist for him.
He now sees the past like the present, and the future is no longer concealed from him, and for him there is no more division of time and place, there are no hours, nor days, nor years, nor even centuries, there are no large or small distances – everything is fused together into a single moment that is eternity, an eternity which is never-ending and is always just beginning; everything is fused together in a single viewpoint, and this viewpoint is no longer subject to any change.
What does he see and feel? The unfolding eternity strikes him with indescribable terror; its boundlessness absorbs his finite being, and all his thoughts and feelings are lost in its infinity. He sees objects for which we have no names or concepts; he hears things which cannot be expressed by any voice or sound on earth; his experiences and feelings cannot be described by any of our words or in any of our languages. He sees light and darkness, but they are not the same as on earth: the light there is such that in comparison our brightest sun would seem as a candle shining before the sun; the darkness there is such that our darkest night would seem clear as day.
There man meets beings similar to himself, and recognizes in them other people who have departed from this world. But what a change! These are no longer earthly faces or earthly bodies; these are pure souls, fully developed, with all their inner traits clothing them in appearances that accord with these traits: by these appearances the souls recognize each other, while through strength of feeling they recognize those with whom they were intimate in this life.
Afterwards the soul meets beings who are also similar in nature, but at whose approach it feels their immeasurably greater power over it. Some of them come out of the depths of infinite darkness, and their entire being is dark and evil; they think, act, live in endless evil; they themselves undergo indescribable suffering and are the cause of it in others; affliction and perdition characterize their every movement and action.
But this is still in the lower regions of the spiritual world, closest to our Earth, while further on the soul sees an endless sea of incomprehensible light, out of which appear other, even mightier, beings; their nature and life are total goodness, unimaginable perfection, indescribable love; their entire being is filled with extraordinary light which accompanies their every movement.
Thus, in this wondrous world, man’s spirit – totally unfettered and powered by its spiritual nature and the irresistible force of attraction of a kindred world, – flies, flies onward and onward to the place, or rather to the degree to which his spiritual endowments can aspire, and there it becomes entirely transformed in an extraordinary manner. Is this the same spirit which lived in man on earth, a restrained spirit, bound by flesh, barely noticeable under the body’s mass, totally servile and enslaved to it, so that it seemingly could not even live or develop without the body?
Is this the same frail spirit which frequently and easily fell under the burden of sensuality and all the conditions of life on earth? Is this, finally, the same spirit in which goodness was for the most part only a seed, while evil was deeply hidden, so that the spirit was conscious neither of the one, nor of the other, and everything was so mixed up within him that goodness was often overcome by evil, and evil was often to be glimpsed behind the good? What has happened to him now? Now everything – both the good and the bad – is quickly unfolding with unrestrained force; his thoughts, feelings, moral nature, passions, and aspirations of the will are all developing to an extreme measure; he himself can neither stop, nor change, nor overcome them; the boundlessness of eternity is drawing them along to infinity; his failings and weaknesses turn into infinite evil, his afflictions and spiritual ills turn into endless suffering.
Can you imagine the horrors of such a condition? Your soul, not a bad one here on earth, but suppressing and concealing evil within it, over there will become infinitely evil; your bad feelings, restrained here somewhat, over there will turn into madness, if you do not expunge them on earth; if here you are somehow in control of yourself, over there you will not be able to do anything for yourself: everything that is within you will go with you over there, and will develop to the point of infinity. What will you become then? O, then you will recognize yourself much better than here. There will be no help from anywhere or anyone then, and your evil will carry you by the force of its own gravity towards the place where eternal endless evil lives – into the company of dark and evil spirits. And you will not be able to stop along this path or go back, and for ages of ages you will suffer and suffer – from what? From the madness of your own evil, which will not give you any hope for the better, nor any peace within yourself; you will also suffer from that evil environment which will be stronger than you, which will eternally surround you and torture you without end…
And what about the good soul – what will happen to it? Goodness will also unfold in all its fullness and force; it will develop with all the freedom it did not have here, will reveal all its inner worth, for the most part hidden, unknown, and unvalued in this world, all its inner light, entirely obscured in this world, all its bliss, unrecognized and suppressed in this world by the multitude of life’s sorrows. And so this soul will rush on, compelled by the force of its natural lofty aspirations, to the upper regions of the world where in endless light lives the Source and the Prototype of all good, into the company of the purest beings of light, and the soul itself will become a similarly pure, light, rapturous being. Infinite love will unite it with God, the angels, and kindred souls. Now it will forever stand firm in its goodness, and no evil – either internal or external – will be able to shake it, or change it, or damage its state of bliss.
(Reprinted from “Orthodox Russia,” No. 15, 1999.)
Ascetic of Virtue
On this day (July 19th) the holy Orthodox Church glorified one of its great saints – the venerable Seraphim, wonderworker of Sarov.
The ways of spiritual life are diverse and complex. Along winding paths does the human spirit return to the abandoned dwelling of the Heavenly Father, to His sanctity that was lost through sin.
And oftentimes at the very abyss of a sinful fall, at the yawning chasm of sin man feels the full horror of his rejection of God and begins to seek salvation from the eternal perdition of his immortal soul, to a realization of which he comes at the very last moment. This is the path of the eleventh-hour arrivals (the Evangelical parable of the laborers hired at different times of the day), the path of publicans, prodigal sons, adulterers, and sinners, who at some point in their unclean lives envision and aspire towards the purity and sanctity of a life genuinely established in God. In the final analysis this bitter path of sinful experience either spiritually destroys a person or, conversely, spiritually sobers him up.
But there is yet another path, the path of virtue, the path of spiritual purity, of a life preserved from beginning to end in chastity, a life revealed, marked, and augmented by continuous spiritual endeavor. This is the path of ascetics from youth, who have loved God not only outwardly, but wholeheartedly, placing their joyous hope of salvation in Him alone.
Saint Anthony the Great, hearing the Evangelical summons to discard all the cares and affairs of the world, did not take counsel with his flesh and blood, but left all and followed after Christ. Hosts of God’s saints regarded all the luxuries of this world as dust for the sake of a powerful and unshakeable striving towards the Temple of true and supreme heavenly beauty.
Such was the path of Saint Seraphim.
“From the youth didst thou love Christ, O blessed one,” – sings the Church, glorifying the great wonderworker of Sarov.
He loved from his very youth, and the Saint preserved this love until the very end, until his repose at a venerable age. His image is the integral image of genuine spiritual virtue in the fullest sense of the word, alien to vacillation, alien to deviation from the true path. In this sense Saint Seraphim is primarily an ascetic of virtue. He is the embodiment of spiritual vigor, of genuine spiritual simplicity.
And in our times the example of his life is especially instructive, his prayerful intercession is especially needed. The world has become embroiled in complexity, is drowning in contradictions, has deviated from simplicity in Christ. And with the entire endeavor of his life the great wonderworker of Sarov calls us back to the abandoned path of God. To love Christ, to turn one’s heart to Him, to serve Him and not oneself or one’s passions – such is the path of Christian life.
Brethren, how terrifying it is to realize (and how often it happens) that one loves oneself more than God. In the final analysis this is a spiritual dead end, a second death. And the only way out here is to seek simplicity, reject oneself, take up one’s cross (no matter how heavy), and follow after Christ.
O venerable Father Seraphim, pray to God for us!
Hieromonk Methody, “Before the eyes of God’s truth”)
(Reprinted from “Orthodox Russia, No. 17, 2007)
TSAR NICHOLAS II DID NOT ABDICATE THE THRONE
The famous Manifesto is the forgery of the century
(Interview with the contemporary Russian historian and researcher into the epoch of Emperor Nicholas II, Peter Multatuli. Peter Valentinovich Multatuli was born in 1969 in St. Petersburg. His great-grandfather, the cook Ivan Kharitonov, died a martyr’s death in the Ipatyev house together with the Royal Family. Peter Multatuli is the author of several books on Emperor Nicholas II, the most recent of which is titled “Nicholas II. The abdication that never was.”)
– On March 4, 1917 practically all the newspapers published the Manifesto on the abdication of Emperor Nicholas of the throne in favor of his brother, Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich. However, no one saw the original until… 1928, when it was discovered in the archives of the Academy of Sciences in Leningrad. This was a machine-typed text, where the signature of Nicholas II was written in pencil (!). The Emperor’s title and his personal imperial seal were missing. It is this very document that is still regarded as the original of the Manifesto and is preserved in the RF State Archives! It is quite obvious that documents of state importance were never signed by the Sovereign in pencil. In 2006 researcher Andrey Razumov factually proved that the penciled signature was lifted off Nicholas II’s 1915 order to the army and fleet, and transposed through the use of special technology. The Manifesto also contains the signature of the Minister of the Royal Court, Count Fredericks. This signature is also written in pencil and outlined in ink. Yet when Fredericks was questioned by the Provisional Government’s extraordinary investigative committee, he declared: “I was not with the Emperor at that moment.” His questioning has been documented.
– What really happened?
– By February 1917 a year had already passed in which a conspiracy was being prepared for the overthrow of Nicholas II. This was being handled by the top echelon of the National Duma (its chairman Rodzyako, the leader of cadets Milyukov, the industrialist Konovalov, the representative of the Duma’s revolutionary wing Kerensky), the leadership of military-industrial committees (Guchkov), and members of the Stavka [Russian General Military Headquarters] (Generals Alekseyev, Ruzsky, Brusilov). They were motivated to push for Nicholas II’s overthrow by a conceited notion that they would be better able to rule Russia than the Tsar. The conspirators were supported by the ruling circles of several Western nations. The forces that aspired to abolish the monarchy gained the upper hand. For this they needed an abdication in favor of a candidate who, on the one hand, sort of had a right to the throne, but on the other hand, whose right could be disputed if necessary. Such a candidate was the Emperor’s brother, Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich. After he was married in 1912 to the twice-divorced Natalia Wulfert, his descendants lost all right to the throne, and Mikhail himself – the right to become the country’s ruler in the event of Nicholas II’s death. Could Nicholas II voluntarily hand over the throne to such a person? Obviously not. In accordance with the law that was in effect, the Emperor could not abdicate at all!
– In what way then were the conspirators trying to effect the abdication?
– Chief of Staff General Alekseyev lured the Tsar into leaving St. Petersburg for the Stavka, in order to have his train seized en route. Contrary to established ideas, Nicholas II was imprisoned not on March 8, 1917 in Mogilev, but in the night of February 28 in Malaya Vishera. The Imperial train could not go on to Tosno and from there to Tsarskoye Selo not because “revolutionary troops” had taken over the railways, as we have been lied to for a long time, but because in Malaya Vishera the train was forcibly sent on by the conspirators to the city of Dno, and afterwards to Pskov. As of February 28 Nicholas II was completely isolated. Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich was isolated at the same time in St. Petersburg, in the home of Prince Putyatin on Millionnaya Street. In Pskov the Imperial train was placed under strict control by the active conspirator, aide-de-camp General Ruzsky, Commander-in-chief of the Northern Fleet armies. No one could see the Emperor without Ruzsky’s consent. It is under such conditions that the “signing” of the so-called “abdication” took place. According to the conspirators’ published memoirs, the Sovereign went into his cabinet and then came back with several “quarter sheets” (telegram blanks), on which the text of the Manifesto was subsequently typed. Can one really imagine the Emperor typing on a machine like a common typist? It has been said that the Emperor composed the Manifesto himself. In reality, the document was written up by Ruzsky and Rodzyanko several days prior to the event. The Sovereign did not even see it. The Emperor’s signature was faked. After the “writing” of the Manifesto on abdication, on March 8, 1917 the Emperor was arrested officially. The conspirators feared that if the Sovereign came out from under their control, he would immediately speak out and refute his abdication. Until his very end the Emperor was under the strictest house arrest.
– But there are the diaries of Nicholas II, in which he acknowledges his abdication of the throne.
– As far as the diaries are concerned, there are serious indications that the Bolsheviks had introduced forgeries into them. In her memoirs published abroad in the 1920s, the Empress’s friend Anna Vyrubova wrote that when the Tsar was brought to the Alexander Palace, he said to her: “These events at Pskov have so shattered me that I have been unable to keep up my diary.” The question arises: who then kept the dairy? Moreover, from Nicholas II’s diaries it emerges that he did not know the time of his departure from Pskov for the Stavka, nor the time of his arrival in Mogilev, since the departure and arrival times indicated in the diary do not correspond to the times indicated in Stavka documents.
– Why did the Emperor not attempt to escape?
– Nicholas II was Orthodox. When he, after having refused to sign any papers on abdication, found out that a Manifesto in his name had nevertheless been published, he saw this as the will of God and did not fight for power. He and his family went on to carry their cross of martyrdom for Russia.
Interviewed by Maria Pozdnyakova
(Reprinted from “Argumenty i fakty,” No. 45, 2009)
LIVES OF THE SAINTS
On August 6th (July 24th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the holy martyrs and passion-bearers Princes Boris and Gleb of Russia.
The holy Princes Boris and Gleb (called Romanus and David in baptism) were the first Russian princes to be canonized by both the Russian and the Greek Churches. They were the youngest sons of holy Prince Vladimir. Having been born shortly before the Baptism of Russia, the holy brothers were reared in Christian piety. The elder of the brothers, Boris, received a good education. He loved to read the Holy Scriptures, the works of the Holy Fathers, and especially the Lives of Saints. Under their influence St. Boris was filled with an ardent desire to follow the spiritual endeavor of God’s saints, and often prayed to the Lord to grant him such an honor.
St. Gleb was brought up together with his brother from early childhood and shared his aspiration to dedicate his life exclusively to the service of God. Both brothers were distinguished by their charity and goodness of heart, following the example of their father, holy Prince Vladimir, who was merciful and compassionate to the poor, the sick, and the destitute.
While his father was still living, St. Boris was given the city of Rostov as his inheritance. In ruling his principality, he demonstrated both wisdom and meekness, being primarily concerned with the establishment of the Orthodox faith and a pious way of life among his subjects. The young prince also became renowned as a brave and talented warrior. Shortly before his death, Prince Vladimir summoned Boris to Kiev and sent him with an army against the Pechenegs. Upon the death of Prince Vladimir (on July 15, 1015), his eldest son Svyatopolk, who was in Kiev at that time, announced himself as the new Kievan Prince. At that time Prince Boris was returning from his campaign without even having met the Pechenegs, who, fearing him, apparently went off into the steppes. Hearing of his father’s death, he was greatly sorrowed. His comrades advised him to go to Kiev and take over the princely throne, but holy Prince Boris did not wish to engage in internecine strife and dismissed his troops, saying: “I will not raise my hand against my brother, especially an older one, whom I should respect as a father!”
The perfidious and power-hungry Svyatopolk, however, did not believe in Boris’ sincerity Trying to guard himself against possible competition from his brother, who held the affection of the people and the troops, he sent assassins out to him. St. Boris was apprised of such treachery on the part of Svyatopolk, but did not hide himself and readily faced death just like the martyrs in the early age of Christianity. The assassins came upon him while he was praying at the Sunday matins of July 24, 1015 in his tent on the shores of the Alta River. After the service they rushed into the tent and pierced the prince with lances. Prince Boris’ favorite servant, George the Hungarian, rushed to his master’s defense and was killed immediately. But St. Boris was still alive. Coming out of the tent, he began to pray ardently and then turned to his murderers: “Come up, brothers, and finish your job, and peace be with you and brother Svyatopolk.” Then one of them came up to him and pierced him with a lance. Svyatopolk’s servants took Boris’ body to Kiev, but on the way they were met by two Varangians, who had been sent by Svyatopolk to speed up the affair. The Varangians noticed that the prince was still alive, though barely breathing. Then one of them pierced his heart with a sword. The body of the holy passion-bearer Prince Boris was secretly brought to the city of Vyshgorod and placed in the church of St. Basil the Great.
After that Svyatopolk had holy Prince Gleb murdered in a similarly treacherous manner. Cunningly summoning his brother from his principality – the city of Murom, – Svyatopolk sent members of his retinue to meet up with St. Gleb and kill him along the way. Prince Gleb already knew of his father’s death and of the heinous murder of Prince Boris. Deeply sorrowing, he preferred death to war with his brother. St. Gleb’s meeting with the assassins took place near the mouth of the Smyadyn’ River, not far from Smolensk.
What precisely was the spiritual feat of the holy righteous Princes Boris and Gleb? What sense was there in dying just like that, without any resistance, at the hands of assassins?
The lives of the holy passion-bearers were sacrificed to the basic Christian virtue of love. The holy brothers did what was still new and incomprehensible to the pagan Russia accustomed to bloody revenge – they showed that evil was not to be rendered for evil, even under the threat of death. Moreover, in fulfillment of the Gospel commandment, the holy brothers gave up their lives for others, preventing with their own death the useless death of many that would have occurred in the course of internecine strife.
The righteous princes did not wish to raise their hand against their brother, but the Lord Himself send retribution upon the power-hungry tyrant. In 1019 Prince Yaroslav the Wise, also one of the sons of holy Prince Vladimir, gathered his troops and vanquished Svyatopolk’s army. By God’s providence the decisive battle took place in a field near the Alta River where St. Boris had been murdered. Svyatopolk, called “the Accursed” by the Russian people, fled to Poland and, just like the first fratricide Cain, did not find peace anywhere. The chroniclers testify that even from his grave there issued a putrid smell.
“From that time on, – writes the chroniclers, – there was hardly any sedition in Russia.” The blood shed by the holy brothers for the sake of preventing internecine strife was the good seed which strengthened the unity of Russia. The holy princes were not only glorified by God with the gift of miracle-working, but they are the particular protectors and defenders of the Russian land. There were many instances known of their appearance in times of trouble for the Fatherland – for example, to the holy Prince Alexander Nevsky on the eve of the Battle on the Ice against the Teutonic knights (1242) and to Prince Dimitry Donskoy on the day of the Kulikovo Battle against the Tatars (1380). The veneration of Saints Boris and Gleb began very early on, soon after their death. Besides the five-domed stone church built over their relics in Vyshgorod by the righteous Prince Yaroslav the Wise in 1026, many churches and monasteries all over Russia were dedicated to the holy princes, and there are also frescoes and icons of the passion-bearing brothers in numerous churches of the Russian Church.
August 5th (July 23rd by the old calendar) marks the feast of the Pochayev icon of the Mother of God.
The history of this miraculous icon is inseparably tied with the Pochayev Monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Theotokos, which is located in the southwest of Russia. The monastery was founded back in the 13th century and flourished in the late 16th / early 17th centuries.
The miraculous image of the Holy Theotokos called the Pochayev icon was received as a gift from the Greek metropolitan Neophyte, who stopped at the home of a certain Goyskaya, mistress of a large estate, on his way to Moscow in 1559. For 30 years the icon stood in the landowner’s chapel before it was noticed that an extraordinary light was issuing from the image. After Goyskaya’s brother, Philip Kozinskiy, who was born blind, was miraculously healed by the icon, the pious landowner gave the sacred relic to the monks of the Pochayev monastery. The icon was then carried over to Pochayev in a ceremonious procession.
The small icon depicts the Mother of God with the Pre-eternal Infant on Her right arm. In Her left hand She holds a towel with which the Infant Jesus was covered. The Lord has His left hand placed on His Mother’s shoulder, while His right hand is raised in blessing; the Mother of God’s face is inclined towards Her Son’s head. There are seven minia-ture images of saints depicted on the sides of the icon: the prophet Elias, martyr Menas, protomartyr Stephen, venerable Abrahamus, great-martyr Catherine, martyr Paraskeva, and martyr Irene. The “Book of Records of Pochayev Miracles” reports a multitude of healings after prayer to the Most-holy Theotokos, sent through Her Pochayev icon.
For four centuries the Heavenly Queen also granted Her all-powerful aid to the Pochayev monastery. Thus, in the summer of 1675 the Turkish troops of khan Nurredin besieged the Pochayev Lavra on three sides. The weak monastery wall did not represent a serious barrier. The monks and the laymen who had sought sanctuary in the monastery fearfully awaited the beginning of the attack. The abbot of the monastery summoned all the Orthodox faithful to appeal for help to their heavenly intercessors – the Holy Virgin and St. Job of Pochayev. Throughout the entire night the besieged people earnestly prayed before the miraculous icon and the tomb with the relics of the saint. In the morning of July 23rd, when the sun came up, they started to sing an akathist to the Mother of God. At the words “Champion Leader” a wondrous miracle occurred. The Holy Theotokos Herself appeared over the monastery church, together with a multitude of angels holding unsheathed swords. St. Job stood next to the Mother of God and entreated Her to defend his monastery. Seeing the celestial troops, the Turks took them for a phantom and began shooting arrows at the Queen of Heaven and the angels. But the arrows came back to them and struck the infidels. Then the Turkish army became greatly agitated, the soldiers started killing each other, and afterwards began fleeing in panic. The defenders of the monastery were able to capture many of them. Some of the Turks were subsequently baptized and remained in the Pochayev Lavra for good. Later an annual celebration in honor of the Pochayev icon of the Theotokos was established to commemorate the miraculous deliverance on July 23rd by our Intercessor and Helper in all sorrows.
THE ORTHODOX VIEW OF EVOLUTION
(see beginning here)
The Nature of Man
St. John Damascene, in particular, rejects Origen’s heresy concerning the “pre-existence” of souls. But there was also an opposite heresy, which taught of the “pre-existence” of the human body, exactly as contemporary “Christian evolutionists” teach. This heresy was specifically disproved by St. Gregory of Nyssa.
Having examined Origen’s fallacy in regard to the “pre-existence of souls,” St. Gregory continues: “Others, however, keeping to the order described by Moses concerning the formation of man, declare that the soul came second in time after the body. Since God (they say), having first taken dust from the earth, created man, and only then made him a living being by breathing into him, on this basis they attempt to prove that the body is to be preferred over the soul, which had entered into an already created body. The soul, they say, was created for the body, in order for man not to be a lifeless and immobile creation… But the teaching of both the one and the other is equally unacceptable” (On the formation of man, XXVIII).
Concretely rejecting the teaching of the “pre-existence of bodies,” St. Gregory says: “And I believe that our true teaching should lie somewhere in the middle between these suppositions. This means that we should not believe that, in accordance with the Hellenic falsehood, our souls, which rotated with the universe, became burdened with sin and, being unable to keep up with the speed of the rotating polar caps, fell to the ground; neither should we assert that man was first created by the Word as a statue from clay, and then a soul was made for this statue (for in that case our intelligent nature would be less precious than a statue made out of clay). Since man, who is composed of a soul and a body, is a single entity, we must assume a single beginning to his composition… According to the apostles, our nature is comprehended by the mind as a duality: physical man and mystical man. Thus, if one part was pre-existent and the other appeared afterwards, that would signify a deficiency in the power of the Creator, as though being inadequate for the instantaneous creation of the entire being, but dividing the task and taking care of each half in turn” (Ibid, XXIX).
Do we need more proof that the “God” of “Christian evolutionists” is precisely a God who is inadequate for performing the entire task; and that the reason for inventing evolutionary teaching was to explain the universe on the basis of God either not existing at all, or being unable to create the world in six days by His Word alone?
Those who believe in the God worshipped by Orthodox Christians would never have thought of evolution.
It is quite obvious that Saint Seraphim understood the text of the book of Genesis differently from the way you interpret it. Other parts of his “Conversation with Motovilov” show that St. Seraphim looked upon creation and the nature of Adam in the same way as did the entire patristic tradition.
Thus, immediately after the place you have cited, there are the following words which you do not mention: “Adam was created in such a way as not to be affected by any of the God-made elements; thus he could not be drowned by water, nor burned by fire, nor swallowed up by the earth’s abysses, nor harmed by any action of the air. Everything was subjected to him…”
This is an exact description of the incorruptibility of Adam’s body at the time of creation, when it was subject to rules that were different from today’s “laws of nature,” which you will find impossible to accept, since you believe, together with modern philosophy, that material creation was “natural,” i.e. corruptible, even before Adam’s fall!
And again St. Seraphim says: “Such wisdom, and power, and might, and all other good and holy qualities the Lord God gave also to Eve, having created her not from the dust of the earth, but from Adam’s rib in the bliss of the Eden He had planted in the middle of the earth.” Do you believe in Eve’s creation from Adam’s rib as an historical fact, as do all the Holy Fathers? No, you cannot, because from the point of view of evolutionary philosophy it is an absurdity; why should the “God” of evolution develop Adam’s body from animals “in a natural manner,” and then create Eve miraculously? The “God” of evolution does not work such miracles!
Let us now concretely examine the Orthodox patristic view of the body of the first-created Adam, which, according to evolutionary teaching, should have been corruptible, like the corruptible world from which it “evolved,” and could have been, as you assert, even the body of an ape.
The Scriptures clearly teach us that “God created man incorruptible.” St. Gregory Sinaite says: “The body, the theologians tell us, has been created incorruptible, the same as it will arise, and the soul has been created without passions; but just as the soul had the freedom to sin, so the body – to become corruptible.” And again: “The incorruptible body will be earthly, but without secretions and obesity, being indescribably transformed into a spiritual entity, so that it will be both dust and heavenly. Just as it has been created in the beginning, so it will arise, in order to accord with the image of the Son of Man.”
Let us note here that the body in the next life with still be “of dust.” Looking upon the corruptible dust of this fallen world, we become humble, thinking of this part of our nature; but when we think of that incorruptible dust of the newly-created world, out of which God made Adam, we delight in the majesty of even that lowest part of God’s ineffable creation!
St. Gregory the Theologian offers a symbolic interpretation of the “coats of skins” in which the Lord clothed Adam and Eve after their transgression, meaning that our current body differs from the body of the first-created Adam. “Adam is clothed in coats of skins, i.e. in a course, mortal and confrontational flesh.” St. Gregory the Sinaite also says: “Man was created incorruptible, and will arise the same. Corruptibility has been engendered by the flesh. To eat food and disgorge the excess, to carry one’s head proudly and to sleep lying down – those are natural attributes of animals and beasts, among whom we, too, find ourselves; having become through our transgression like unto the animals, we have lost our God-given qualities and have changed from wise beings into animals, from divine creations into beasts” (Discourses on the commandments, 8:9).
Concerning the state of Adam in Eden St. John Chrysostome teaches the following: “Man lived on earth like an angel – being in a body, but not having bodily needs; like a king, clothed in a purple robe and crowned with a diadem, he freely enjoyed his heavenly abode, having everything in abundance…. Until the fall the first people lived in Eden like angels, were not subject to lust or other passions, were not burdened with any bodily necessities, had even no need of being covered with garments” (Discourse on the Book of Genesis, XIII:4, XV:4).
St. Simeon the New Theologian also clearly speaks of the first-created Adam in Eden and of his final state in eternity: “If now, after we have transgressed the commandment and have been condemned to death, mankind has increased to such an extent, – imagine how many people there would have been, if all those born after the creation of the world had not died? And what a life they would have lived, being immortal and incorruptible, strangers to sin, sorrow, worries and oppressive cares?! And how, having excelled in keeping the commandments, they would have risen to perfect glory and, becoming transformed, would have drawn nearer to God, and the soul of each person would have become most radiant, reflecting the indescribable light of Divinity! And this sensual and coarsely material body would become immaterial and spiritual, above all senses; while the joy and rapture with which we would then be filled from communing with each other would truly be indescribable and impossible for the human mind to encompass… The life of the first people in Eden was not burdened by labor and oppressed by misfortune. Adam was created with an incorruptible body, althougha material one, not yet spiritual… Of our body the apostle says: it is sown a natural body, and it is raised not like the body of the first man before the transgression, i.e. material, sensual, changing, having need of sensual food, but it is raised a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44), such as was the body of our Lord Jesus Christ after the resurrection, the body of the second Adam, the first-born among the dead, which is incomparably superior to the body of the first-created Adam” (Homily 45).
Our experience with our corruptible body makes it impossible for us to understand the incorruptible state of the body of Adam, who, as we know, had no bodily needs, who ate of all the trees in Eden without producing any waste, and who had no need of sleep (until a direct act of God made him fall asleep, in order for Eve be created from his rib). And how even less able are we to comprehend the exalted state of our bodies in the future age! But from the teaching of the Church we know enough to disprove those who believe that these mysteries may be comprehended by means of science and philosophy. The state of Adam and the newly-created world has been forever excluded from scientific knowledge by the barrier of Adam’s transgression, which had changed the very nature of Adam and all creation, and likewise the nature of knowledge itself.
Modern science knows only that which it observes and what it can reasonably deduce from its observations; its conjectures concerning the earliest creation are of neither greater nor lesser import than the myths and fables of ancient pagans. True knowledge of Adam and the newly-created world – as far as we are allowed to know – is accessible only through divine revelation and in the divine contemplation of the saints.
(To be concluded)
TO THE THEOTOKOS WE HAVE RECOURSE
To Thee, Most-holy blessed Mother,
I dare to elevate my voice,
Bathing my face with tears of penance:
O, hear me in this sorrowful hour.
Receive my earnest supplication,
Deliver my spirit from tribulation,
Pour tender ardor into my heart,
Instruct me on salvation's path.
To my own will may I be alien,
Ready to bear all for the sake of God.
Be Thou my mantle in harsh misfortune,
Do not allow me to repose in grief.
Thou art a refuge for all the wretched,
An intercessor for us all;
Protect us when we hear the awesome,
The dreaded judgment voice of God,
As time is ended for eternity,
The trumpet resurrects the dead,
And the book of conscience does expose
The terrible onus of my sins.
Thou art a haven for all the faithful,
To Thee I pray with all my heart:
O save me, my delight and comfort,
Have mercy on my anguished soul!
N. V. Gogol
Translated by Natalia Sheniloff