ONE’S OWN CROSS AND THE CROSS OF CHRIST
The Lord said to His disciples: If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Matt. 16:24).
What does “his cross” mean? Why is this cross – his own, i.e. the separate and individual cross of each person, – also called the Cross of Christ? One’s own cross: the sorrows and suffering of earthly life, which are individual to each person. One’s own cross: fasting, vigil, and other pious spiritual labors through which the flesh is humbled and subjugated to the spirit. These labors should be appropriate to each person’s strength, and they are individual to each person. One’s own cross: illnesses and passions, which are individual to each person. With some of them we are born, with others we become contaminated along the path of life. The Cross of Christ is represented by Christ’s teaching. One’s own cross, no matter how heavy, is fruitless and in vain if it is not transformed into the Cross of Christ by following Christ. For Christ’s disciple his own cross becomes the Cross of Christ, because Christ’s disciple is firmly convinced that Christ watches over him ceaselessly, that Christ allots him the sorrows as a necessary and inevitable condition of Christianity, that not a single sorrow could come near him were it not allowed by Christ, that through sorrows a Christian becomes united with Christ, becomes a participant in His lot on earth and, therefore, in heaven.
For Christ’s disciple his own cross becomes the Cross of Christ when Christ’s disciple regards the fulfillment of Christ’s commandments as his sole purpose in life. These most holy commandments become for him a cross on which he ceaselessly crucifies the flesh with its passions and lusts (Gal 5:24).
Thus it is obvious why, in order to take on one’s cross, one must first deny oneself. This is because sin has become such a strong and widespread part of our fallen nature. Thus, in order to take one’s cross upon one’s shoulders, it is first necessary to deny the body its lustful desires and provide it only with what is essential for existence; it is necessary to regard one’s own self-justification as a lie before God and one’s own reason as foolishness; and finally, by engaging in a continuous study of the Gospel, it is necessary to fully reject one’s own will.
Only a person who has achieved such complete self-denial is capable of taking on his own cross. With obedience to God, calling upon God’s help to strengthen his frailty, such a person looks upon approaching sorrow without fear or agitation, is prepared to suffer it magnanimously and courageously, hoping that it will make him a participant in Christ’s suffering, and will confess Christ not only with his mind and heart, but also with his very deeds, his very life.
A cross is burdensome only while it remains one’s own. As soon as it is transformed into the Cross of Christ, it attains incredible lightness: for My yoke is easy and My burden is light, said the Lord.
The cross is placed upon the shoulders of Christ’s disciple when the disciple acknowledges himself to have merited the sorrows sent to Him by Divine Providence. Christ’s disciple carries his cross properly when he acknowledges that it is precisely the sorrows that have been sent him, and none other, that are necessary to his salvation. The patient bearing of one’s cross is the fruit of genuine vision and recognition of one’s sins. The patient bearing of one’s cross is genuine repentance. By accusing our own selves we justify God’s judgment and receive remission of our sins.
O thou who art crucified on the cross! Acknowledge Christ – and the doors of Paradise will open for thee. From thy cross glorify the Lord, rejecting all thought of complaint or grumbling. From thy cross thank the Lord for such a precious gift – the opportunity to be one with Christ through thy sufferings.
The cross is a true treasure-chest of genuine theology. Outside the cross there is no living knowledge of Christ. Do not seek Christian perfection in human virtues. It is not there: it is hidden within the Cross of Christ.
One’s own cross is transformed into the Cross of Christ when Christ’s disciple bears it with a lively realization of his sinfulness, when he bears it with gratitude towards Christ, with laudation of Christ. The laudation and gratitude engender the feeling of indescribable spiritual joy within the sufferer, which encompasses his heart with grace, pours out upon his soul, pours out upon his very body.
The Cross of Christ seems severe only in outward appearance, only to mortal eyes. For Christ’s disciple it is a supreme spiritual pleasure which completely drowns out sorrow, so that among the most terrible anguish Christ’s follower feels only pleasure. Saint Maura said to her husband, Saint Timothy, who was suffering terrible torments and inviting her to take part in the martyrdom: “I dread, brother, to succumb to fear, seeing the terrible torments and the wrathful ruler, and to lose endurance because of my tender age.” The holy martyr replied to her: “Have hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, and your torments will be as fragrant oil poured upon your body, and as the breath of dew within your bones, easing all your suffering” (Lives of the Saints, May 8).
The cross is the power and the glory of all the saints.
The cross is the healer of passions and the destroyer of demons.
The cross is deadly for those who did not transform their own cross into the Cross of Christ, who grumble from their cross at Divine Providence, blaspheme against it, give themselves over to hopelessness and despair. Unrepentant sinners die an eternal death, by their lack of patience depriving themselves of true life in God.
If any man will come after Me, – said the Lord, – let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me…
FRIEND OF THE BRIDEGROOM
Homily for the Beheading of St. John the Baptist
It is difficult, brethren, to imagine a greater and more glorious service than the one performed in his life by St. John the Forerunner, and that truly dovelike humility with which it was allied. The more important a person, the more dangerous becomes for him the temptation of spiritual vanity, the temptation of self-assertion, of living for one’s own glory. And yet among those born of women there was no one greater than John the Baptist…
At the same time, his entire preaching, his entire service were for Another. Coming out to preach, he testifies: “There cometh One mightier than I after me, the latchet of Whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose” (Mark 1:7). The whole purpose of the Forerunner’s life was in this mightier One.
And when they meet at the waters of Jordan, John humbly testifies: “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” (Matt. 3:14). “Suffer it to be so now, – replies the Son of God, – for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” And now the Forerunner preaches not only the coming Deliverer, but the One Who has already come: “Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes upon Himself the sins of the world,” – he says, pointing to the Saviour. And so he went out to meet Him, he rejoiced in Him, he handed over his disciples to Him.
But not only in this did he manifest before God his great and totally realized service to Another. Once more he appears to us in the Gospel in all the majesty and beauty of his humility.
At one point his disciples come to him in embarrassment and say: “Rabbi (teacher), He that was with Thee beyond Jordan, to Whom thou barest witness, behold, the Same baptizeth, and all men come to Him” (John 3:26).
And here St. John reveals the depth of his humility, here in his last testimony before his death he bears witness to his most cherished feelings: “Ye yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him,” – he replied. “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly for the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, while I must decrease” (John 3:28-30).
These were the Forerunner’s last words about himself and his service, where he appeared in all the majesty of his humility, which had already become ripe for the sacrifice which we commemorate today.
What lesson are we taught by the head of St. John the Baptist that lies before us?
First of all, it not only reminds us, but silently preaches to us of the love which, in the words of the Apostle, seeks nothing for itself, but is ready to give up everything for another.
Furthermore, the holy Head bears wit-ness to humility. This constitutes the truest way into the kingdom of the Heavenly Father – the way of involvement with God, of service to Him, of rejection of all else for the sake of this service.
And in our spiritually impoverished times, not only is the example of the great preacher of repentance instructive for us, but we are especially in need of his intercession for us, of his love, which never ceases and never dies.
May he, the strong one, strengthen our frailty, and may he show us the way to the Throne of the Most Strong, to which lead only two paths – the path of love and the path of humility.
O holy and great John, Forerunner of the Lord, pray to God for us!
Hieromonk Methody, “Before the eyes of God’s truth”)
(Reprinted from “Orthodox Russia, No. 21, 2007)
HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY APOSTLE
AND EVANGELIST JOHN THE THEOLOGIAN
And now abideth, – says the holy Apostle Paul, – these three: faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13). Thus, of the three Christian virtues, love occupies first place. God Himself is love, which He manifested by giving us His only-begotten Son, in order that all who believe in Him not perish, but have eternal life.
This same love the Lord also gave as a commandment to men, both in regard to God and to their neighbors. This commandment is supreme, and it would not be erroneous to say that no one fulfilled it to such perfection as the holy Apostle John the Theologian, whom we now commemorate.
The Lord loves all men, for He does not wish anyone to perish, but His merciful eyes are turned first of all to the holy saints, and above all to His Most-holy Mother, the Ever-pure Virgin Mary. The Lord loved all His disciples, but favored three of them: Peter, James, and John, and of the three – John most of all, because he thus speaks of himself: the disciple whom Jesus loved. From early youth he was called to apostolic service, and with the full ardor of his youthful love he dedicated himself to Christ for his entire life. It was he who lay upon Christ’s breast at the Mystic Supper, and when all the other disciples, abandoning Christ, fled out of fear of the Jews, – John alone courageously followed his Teacher to Golgotha, his presence sweetening the bitter cup of the Latter’s suffering, while from the cross the Lord affiliated him to His Mother.
While he safeguarded the tranquility of the Most-holy Virgin Mary, John continually remained at Her side in Jerusalem to the very day of Her glorious dormition, and only afterwards went forth to preach the Gospel. The main subject of his teaching was active love. My little children, – he would say, – let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). By his own example he showed precisely how one must fulfill this supreme commandment of Christ. St. Clement of Alexandria tells us of how in one of the cities of Asia Minor John noticed a certain youth among his audience, who was distinguished by unusual talents, and entrusted him to the special care of the bishop. Afterwards this youth, escaping from his spiritual instructor’s watch, got into bad company, was corrupted, and became the leader of a band of brigands. Hearing of this, the saddened St. John hurriedly went off into the mountains, where he was captured by the brigands and brought before their leader. Seeing his spiritual instructor, the latter became embarrassed and fled, pursued by his conscience. Despite his position, despite his advanced years, St. John ran after him and with moving words of love and a promise of forgiveness encouraged him, brought him back to town, shared his labors of fasting and penitence, and thus reconciled this lost child of God with the Church.
Blessed Jerome tells of how St. John, being unable to walk in his extreme old age, was carried to church by his disciples, where he limited his talks to the following words: “Little children, love each other.” And when he was asked why he kept repeating the same words over and over again, he replied: “This is the most essential commandment; if you fulfill it,you will have fulfilled Christ’s entire law.”
Of all Christ’s disciples St. John alone ended his earthly life (at the age of 105) with a natural death, although he was often subjected to persecution and torture for Christ’s sake. Sensing his approaching repose, St. John commanded his disciples to dig out a cruciform grave, into which he lay down, covered by earth, and when on the next day the disciples came to his grave, they did not find their teacher’s body there. Apparently the Lord concealed him, just as He had earlier concealed the body of the Prophet Moses.
Thus, brethren, as we prayerfully commemorate the love-filled life of the Lord’s beloved disciple John the Theologian, let us learn from him how to love God and our neighbors.
St. John left his father, left his mother, relatives, gave up all property, and followed Christ, uniting his life with Christ’s. He looked at everything through the eyes of his Teacher, and his greatest pleasure in life was the fulfillment of the Latter’s will. Thus a child becomes attached to his mother sincerely and entirely unselfishly, and her joys become his joys, while her sorrows fill his heart with sadness.
The same should be said of our love for our neighbors. They are all our brothers and sisters, and we all have one Father that art in heaven. As we can see, St. John not only never felt any enmity towards others, but on the contrary, out of love for them he was ready to give up his life for them. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, – said Christ, – if ye have love one to another (John 13:35), and greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). This is why St. John says: Let us love one another, for love is of God, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him (1 John 4:7, 16).
O holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, we pray thee, soften our cold hearts, warm them with love for God and our neighbors, so that we, too, would be beloved of our Heavenly Father, Who would have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Amen.
Homily for the Nativity of the Mother of God
The Christian world piously venerates the shining celestial beauty of the image of the Mother of God… This image has become an integral part of the holy of holies of each Christian soul, the part which truly “can never be touched by the hand of abomination”… Anyone who is not within the Church can never understand the Orthodox veneration of the Mother of God. St. Cyprian has very aptly said: “For whomever the Church is not a mother, God is not a father.” For God cannot be a father to anyone who does not wish to live in the kingdom of love among God’s sons and daughters.
We have become used to seeing the image of the Mother of God before us in five manifestations: as a newborn babe in the icon of Her Nativity which the holy Church now offers for our veneration; as a three-year-old child entering the holy of holies of the temple of Jerusalem; as a young maiden accepting the glad tidings of the incarnation of the Son of God within Her; as a sorrowing Mother standing at the Cross of Her Son and being co-crucified with Him in Her heart; and as a blessed Eldress, giving up Her spirit into the hands of the Son of God and Hers.
But all these images of the Mother of God at different times in Her life on earth could be subtitled with the same words – Her confession given on the day of the Annunciation: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.”
For truly both in Her nativity, and in joy, and in sorrow, and even in Her very death She was the handmaiden of the Lord – a handmaiden not out of fear, but out of love and humility.
“I will make Thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise Thee for ever and ever” (Psalm 45:17).
“For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call Me blessed” (Luke 1:48).
By the prayers of Thy Holy Mother, O Merciful One, cleanse the multitude of our sins!
Hieromonk Methody, “Before the eyes of God’s truth”)
(Reprinted from “Orthodox Russia, No. 21, 2007)
“SURROUNDED BY TREASON, AND COWARDICE, AND LIES”
100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution
Plan for the Russian Revolution
The document was drawn up by Alexander Parvus (real name – Israel Gelfand) in February 1915 and contained a preliminary plan for destroying the existing government regime in Russia by means of a revolutionary movement subsidized with German money. Germany had not counted on the war against Russia on the Eastern front being so protracted. Its economy could not withstand a further continuation of military actions. Therefore, the German leadership strived by all possible means to force Russia into a separate peace agreement. As one of the means of putting pressure on Russia the Germans chose the revolutionary movement, specifically the revolutionaries living in emigration. They were ready to generously finance such subversive activity. And at this precise moment the German leadership was approached by Parvus with a plan for organizing a revolution in Russia. The plan was delivered to the Germans on 9 March 2015, and the latter immediately began to finance its implementation. In reading the document it is easy to note that Lenin in 1917 acted specifically in accordance with this plan. The bringing in of money, weapons, and subversive literature was carried out with German money via the territories of neutral countries. Lenin maintained contact with Parvus through the intermediaries Radek and Gonetsky. It is noteworthy that after successfully seizing power, the head of the first “proletarian” government stopped listening to Parvus and began to deploy exactly the same subversive plan in regard to Germany itself.
Alexander Lvovich Parvus (Gelfand) (1867-1924) was a participant in the Russian and German Social Democratic movement, a theoretician of Marxism, and a publicist. He became friends with Trotsky through the theory of “permanent revolution.” During the First World War he lived in Germany. After the February Revolution he conducted negotiations on the return of the Russian Social Democrats, headed by Lenin, to Russia via Germany.
Doctor Gelfand’s Memorandum
In January 1915 Parvus met with the German Ambassador von Wagenheim and advanced his idea of organizing a revolution in Russia. Parvus convinced the German Ambassador of the full coincidence of the German government’s interests with those of the revolutionaries. At Wagenheim’s request, in March 1915 Parvus submitted to the German government a detailed plan for organizing a revolution in Russia – a document known under the name of “Dr. Gelfand’s Memorandum.” In his plan Parvus assigned a key role to the Bolsheviks, who “had already begun to act,” but he considered success to be impossible without the united efforts of all Social Democrats (including numerous national organizations). The comprehensive document promoted the following actions: preparations for a massive political strike under the slogan of “Freedom and Peace” were to begin in Russia in the spring. The center of the movement would be Petrograd, and in Petrograd itself – the Obukhov, Putilov, and Baltic factories. A railway strike would be conducted primarily in major centers with large labor groups… To expand the scale of the strike, railway bridges would be blown up wherever possible, as had been done during the strikes in 1904-1905. It was necessary to immediately engage in direct propaganda in Odessa, Nikolayev, Sevastopol, Rostov-on-the-Don, Batumi, and Baku. The propaganda was to be aimed at local and professional requirements, and simultaneously was to acquire a political nature. To conduct such propaganda it was necessary to restore the organization of Russian sailors. Impetus was to be given to the Russian Socialist Party, mentioning it in the press and in brochures… The press campaign would have considerable influence on the position of neutral states… The movement among Russian immigrants in America would impact upon the formation of public opinion in America.
A national catastrophe
There is a wide spectrum of assessments of the October Revolution and its consequences for Russia. For many this was a national catastrophe, which erased Russia’s natural course of development and led to a civil war and to the establishment of a totalitarian system of government in Russia. “Yet October was just a brief and rough local military coup according to the plan, and nothing to do with a revolution,” – writes Alexander Solzhenitsyn. And continues: “But there is no doubt that in the 20th century there occurred in Russia the greatest, bloodiest, irrevocable revolution of world significance. A revolution is determined precisely by the irrevocability and radicalism of the changes it brings… Our revolution spread from month to month of 1917 quite sweepingly, and then went on to a Civil War, and to a millionfold Chekist terror, and to quite widespread peasant revolts, and to artificial Bolshevik famines in 30 or 40 provinces – and only ended perhaps with the eradication of the peasantry in 1930-1932 and the shakeup of the entire social order in the first five-year period. Thus the revolution rolled along for 15 years…” As a result of the revolution the Civil War began in Russia, the Provisional Government was overthrown, and a government formed by the Second All-Russian Assembly of the Soviets came to power, wherein the absolute majority of the delegates were Bolsheviks (RSDLP(b)) [Russian Socialist Democratic Labor Party (Bolshevik)] and their allies, the leftist Socialist Revolutionaries, supported also by several national organizations, a small fraction of the Internationalist Mensheviks, and some anarchists. On 12 October the Military Revolutionary Committee – the center for preparing an armed uprising – was created. The government was immediately successfully isolated from the military units loyal to it. On 25 October Lenin arrived at Smol’nyy and personally directed the uprising in Petrograd, seizing the most important facilities, such as bridges, telegraphs, and government institutions.
Excerpted from the Martianoff calendar for 2017
HOW TO BE ORTHODOX TODAY
We bring to your attention a lecture given by one of the great theologians of our time, Father Seraphim Rose, over 25 years ago, but which still remains topical to this day.
The Orthodox way of life and the modern world
In former centuries – for example, in 19th century Russia – an Orthodox worldview was part of the Orthodox way of life and was supported by the surrounding environment. There was no need even to speak of it as of something separate – everyone lived in an Orthodox manner in accordance with the surrounding Orthodox society. In many countries the governments themselves confessed Orthodoxy; it was the center of social reality, and historically the Tsar or the ruler was the principal Orthodox layman, whose responsibility it was to provide an example of Christian life to his subjects. There were Orthodox churches in each city, and in many of them services were held daily, morning and evening. There were monasteries in all the major cities, in many smaller ones, outside the cities, in the villages, in remote and uninhabited places. In Russia there were over a thousand officially registered monasteries, not counting other monastic communities. Monasticism was a universally acknowledged part of life. In truth, in most families someone – a sister or a brother, an uncle, a grandfather, a relative, – was a monk or nun, not to mention other representatives of Orthodox life – wanderers and fools-for-Christ. The entire way of life was permeated by Orthodoxy, the core of which was monasticism. Orthodox customs were part of everyday life. The majority of widely read books were Orthodox. For the majority of people daily life itself was burdensome; they had to work hard in order to subsist, hopes for longevity were not high, early death was not a rarity, – and all of this strengthened Christ’s teaching on the reality and nearness of the next world. Under these circumstances an Orthodox way of life was synonymous with having an Orthodox worldview, and there was little need to speak of it.
Now everything has changed. Our Orthodoxy is an island in a world that is living according to totally different principles, and each day these principles change for the worse, alienate us more and more. Many people become subjected to the temptation of dividing their life into two categories: daily life at work, with worldly friends, engaged in worldly affairs, and Orthodoxy, which we live on Sundays and holidays, or whenever we find time for it. But if we look more closely, the worldview of such a person represents an odd mixture of Christian and worldly values that in reality do not mix. The aim of this lecture is to show how people living today can begin to make their worldview more precious, to make it wholly Orthodox.
Orthodoxy is life. If we do not live in an Orthodox manner, we are simply not Orthodox, irrespective of whether we formally belong to this religion or not.
Life in our modern world has become quite artificial, quite vague, quite confused. Orthodoxy has its own life, but it is not too remote from the life of the surrounding world, so that the life of an Orthodox Christian, even when he is genuinely Orthodox, cannot but reflect it in one way or another. A certain vagueness and confusion have now penetrated even into Orthodox life. Let us try to look at our modern life, in order to see how we could best fulfill our Christian responsibilities, lead a life not of this world, even in these terrible times, and have an Orthodox view of contemporary life that will allow us to survive in these times and retain the integrity of our faith.
Life today has become abnormal
Anyone who looks at our modern life from the perspective of the normal life that people led in former times – for example, in Russia, or in America, or in any Western European country, – cannot but be amazed at how insane life has now become. All concept of authority and obedience, decency and politeness, behavior in society and in private life – all has changed abruptly, has become turned upside down, with the exception of several individual groups – usually Christians of one confession or another, who are trying to retain a so-called “old-fashioned” way of life.
Our abnormal life today may also be characterized as spoiled and capricious. From infancy every contemporary child is treated as a family idol: his whims are catered to, desires are satisfied, he is surrounded by toys, amusements, conveniences; he is not taught and brought up in accordance with the strict principles of Christian behavior, but allowed to develop in any direction in which his desires are inclined. It is usually enough for him to say “I want” or “I do not want,” for his parents to kowtow to him and allow him to do as he wishes. This does not happen in all families and all the time, of course, but it happens frequently enough to become the rule of modern childrearing, and even parents with the best of intentions cannot entirely escape this influence. Even if the parents themselves try to rear the child strictly, his neighbors or his teachers at school try to do something else. This should be taken into account when bringing up a child.
When such a person grows up, he will naturally surround himself with the same things to which he has become accustomed from childhood: conveniences, amusements, toys for adults. Such a life becomes a constant search for “fun,” and this word, by the way, was absolutely unheard of in any other dictionary; in 19th century Russia or in any other serious civilization people simply would not have understood what this word means. Current life is a continuous search for “fun,” which is so lacking in serious meaning that a visitor from any other 19th-century country, looking at our popular TV programs, amusement parks, advertising, movies, music, or almost any other aspect of our modern culture, – would think that he had arrived in a land of madmen who have lost all touch with daily reality. We often do not take this into account, since we live in this society and take it for granted.
Several recent social researchers into our contemporary life have called the youth of today – the “me” generation, and our times – “the age of narcissism,” characterized by self-veneration and self-adoration that interfere with the development of normal human life. Others speak of our “plastic” universe or of the world of fantasy in which such a huge number of people live today, unable to face the reality of the surrounding world, or to cope with it and with their internal problems.
When the “me” generation turns to religion, which often happens in this decade, this is manifested in a fantastic form of a religion of “self-development” (where the “I” remains the object of veneration), brainwashing and mind control, deified gurus or swamis, a search for UFOs and extraterrestrials, and abnormal spiritual states and experiences. We will not examine these manifestations, since they are probably well-known to most of us, but we will explore the way they impact upon the Orthodox Christian spiritual life of our times.
It is very important for us to realize, as we try to lead a Christian life today, that the world created by our capricious times is presenting demands upon our soul – be it in religion or in worldly life – that are actually totalitarian. This can easily be seen in the soul-warping cults that have become so widespread in recent years and which demand submission to a self-proclaimed “saint”; but it is just as obvious in our worldly life, when a person does not only encounter an individual temptation here or there, but is subjected to a continuous state of temptation, be it in the form of the background music that is heard everywhere – in shops and in offices, or in the form of rock music, which reaches even into forest paths and nature camps, or at home, where television often becomes our covert manager, dictating modern values, opinions, tastes. If you have small children, you know how true this is; if they have seen something on TV, it is extremely difficult to later fight against this new opinion, which had been presented by television as an authoritative one.
The import of this all-encompassing temptation which lures people today (quite openly in its lay form and usually more covertly in religious forms) is as follows: live only for today, enjoy yourself, relax, feel great. Behind this reasoning one can hear another, more menacing overtone, which sounds openly only in officially atheist countries, which in this regard are a step ahead of the free world. In truth, we must realize that what is happening to the world today is the same everywhere – be it behind the Iron Curtain or in the free world. There are various versions of it, but the attacks that are aimed at conquering our souls are very similar. In Communist countries, which officially espouse the doctrine of atheism, it is said quite openly: forget God and any other kind of life except the present one, dismiss from your soul all fear of God and veneration of sacred objects, look upon all those who still believe in God in the old-fashioned way as enemies that must be destroyed. As a symbol of our carefree, fun-seeking, and self-deceiving times we could use our American Disneyland, but we should not miss the more sinister symbol behind it, which shows in which direction the “me” generation is really moving: towards the Soviet Gulag, that chain of concentration camps which is already ruling the lives of almost half of the world’s population.
Two false approaches to spiritual life
But one may well ask: what does all this have to do with us who are trying to lead a sober Orthodox Christian life to the extent possible? A great deal! We should realize that the life around us, no matter how abnormal it may be, is the very place from which we begin our own Christian life. Whatever we make of our lives, however much we fill it with genuine Christian content, is still bears a certain imprint of the “me” generation, and we must be humble enough to acknowledge it. So let us begin from there.
There are two false approaches to the life around us that many people accept, thinking that that is the example of how Orthodox Christians should conduct themselves. One approach, the most widely-accepted, is simply to go along with the times: to adapt to rock music, contemporary fashions and tastes, and the entire rhythm of our modern life. Often the more old-fashioned parents have little to do with this life and live more or less their own separate lives, but they will smile as they watch their children follow all the latest crazes and think it quite harmless. Such a path is a complete disaster for Christian life; it is death for the soul. Some people many continue to outwardly lead a decent life without fighting against the spirit of the times, but inwardly they are dead or dying, and saddest of all is that their children will pay for it by various psychological and spiritual breakdowns and illnesses, which are spreading more and more. For example, one of the leaders of the cult of suicides who so effectively ended their existence in Jones-town (in 1976) was the young daughter of a Greek Orthodox priest. Although the majority of Orthodox youth do not go so far, they nevertheless merge with their surrounding anti-Christian world and cease being an example of even the least bit of Christianity for those around them.
That is unacceptable! A Christian should differ from the surrounding world, and this is one of the basic things he should assimilate as part of his Christian upbringing. Otherwise there is no sense in calling oneself Christian, especially Orthodox Christian.
The false approach at the other extreme is one that may be called false spirituality. As translations of Orthodox books on spiritual life become more and more accessible, and Orthodox terminology on spiritual warfare proliferates, an ever greater number of people talk of hesychasm (contemplative prayer), the Jesus prayer, ascetic life, sublime states of prayer, and of the most contemplative holy fathers, such as Saints Simeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas, or Gregory the Sinaite. It is good to know about this truly sublime side of Orthodox spiritual life and to venerate the great saints who actually led such a life; however, if we do not come to a very realistic and very humble realization of how far we all are from the life of the hesychasts and how little we are prepared to even come near it, our interest in it will only be yet another manifestation of our egocentric plastic world.
Nowadays there are very popular books on this subject. In fact, under Orthodox influence the Catholics themselves are actively engaged in these issues and are, in turn, influencing the Orthodox. For example, the Jesuit priest Father George Maloney writes books on these subjects and translates the works of Saints Macarius the Great and Simeon the New Theologian, and tries to encourage people to be hesychasts in their daily life. They practice all kinds of “retreats,” usually “charismatic” ones; the people are (supposedly) inspired by the Holy Spirit and try all forms of asceticism, of which we know from the holy fathers and which stand far above the level on which we find ourselves today. There is a certain woman, Catherine de Hueck Doherty (she was originally born in Russia and later became Roman Catholic), who writes books such as “Desert,” “Silence,” and about all the things she would like to introduce into life, in a manner as though she is advertising new candy. This, of course, totally lacks seriousness and bears the tragic sign of our times. Elevated concepts are being used by people who have no idea of what they are talking about. For some this has simply become a habit or a pastime; for others, who treat this seriously, it can turn into a tragedy. They think they are leading a sublime life, while in fact they have been unable to resolve their own inner problems.
Once again I would like to stress that we must avoid both these extremes – worldliness and superspirituality, but this does not mean that we should not have a realistic appreciation of the lawful demands that the world makes upon us, nor should we cease venerating the great fathers of hesychasm and using their wise instructions or applying ourselves to the Jesus prayer in accordance with our circumstances and possibilities. We should only be doing this at our current, more down-to-earth level. The fact is (and this is absolutely essential to our understanding of it as Orthodox Christians) that we must have a profound realization of the kind of times we are living in, how little we really know and feel our Orthodoxy, how far we are not only from the saints of antiquity, but even from the simple Orthodox Christians who lived a hundred years ago or even a generation ago, and how strongly we must strive just to survive today as Orthodox Christians.
(To be continued)
LIVES OF THE SAINTS
On September 17th (the 4th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates Saint Joasaph, the wonderworker of Belgorod.
St. Joasaph was born on September 8, 1705 in the city of Priluki in the Poltava province of what is now the Ukraine. Born on the day of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin, he was given the name of Joachim. His parents were noble and pious people. His father came from the ancient and renowned Gorlenko family, which faithfully served the Russian sovereigns. His great-grandfather, the Cossack Lazarus Gorlenko, even ended his life martyrically for his faithfulness to the Tsar, being hacked to pieces by rebel Cossacks. The saint’s mother was the daughter of the famous Cossack military leader Daniel Apostol. But from his early childhood young Joachim knew grief and deprivation due to the vicissitudes of life, because his father, who served under Peter the Great, often became the victim of calumny, as a result of which the Tsar would favor him and exile him in turn. Due to this the Gorlenko estates would often be either taken away by Cossack officials, or rapaciously seized by malicious people in power. Only when Empress Elizabeth I came to the throne was the Gorlenko family able to start living a calm and peaceful life.
Throughout all the long years during which the saint’s father, Andrei Dmitriyevich, lived in exile, the management of the home in conditions of near-poverty and the education of the children rested entirely upon the shoulders of their mother, Maria Danilovna. She was a true Christian, and she ruled over the despoiled estates so artfully, that she even found means of offering widespread charity to the poor and to pilgrims. The Gorlenko house was always home to all pious wanderers and beggars.
The righteous pair, Andrei and Maria, had eight children who early on realized the illusory nature of deceptive earthly happiness, and who learned to seek comfort and help in prayer. Joachim was the first-born and was chosen by God from birth. This was revealed in a vision seen by his father. At the age of seven Joachim was sent to study at the Kiev Academy, while his father stayed at home, pondering how best to arrange his first-born’s future. It was evening and the sun was setting. Suddenly at the edge of the sky Andrei Dmitriyevich saw in the air the Mother of God, and in front of Her his Joachim, praying on his knees. The Holy Virgin, looking down kindly upon the boy, said: “Thy prayer finds favor with Me.” At that moment an angel flew down from heaven and covered the boy with a bishop’s mantle…
While studying at the Kiev Academy, Joachim received a general and a theological education in the spirit of strict Orthodoxy and love of the homeland. All the directors and instructors at the Academy were learned monks. Upon graduating from the Academy, Joachim became a monk with the name of Joasaph, living in various Kievan monasteries and also teaching at his native Academy. In 1737 he was transferred to Moscow and at first appointed abbot of the Lubensky Monastery, and then in 1745 – of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. St. Joasaph spent eleven years in hard monastic service, which served as excellent preparation for his future hierarchal duties. He found both monasteries in a run-down condition and, as a good manager, worked hard to make them flourish, both in the repair of old buildings and in the revival of internal monastic life. There was total lack of discipline among the monks, but the saint, being a strict observer of fasting and prayer, by his own example soon influenced the brothers, at the same time treating them with love and mercy.
So great were the labors of St. Joasaph that he soon became known to the Empress Elizabeth I, who summoned him to court and listened to his homilies with great attention, later calling him to hierarchal service. In 1748 St. Joasaph was consecrated bishop of Belgorod and Oboyan. From that moment and until the end of his days, the saint was quite literally a good shepherd of his flock and knew each sheep by name. He constantly traveled through the diocese which had been entrusted to him, and everywhere he put things in order: he was concerned with the condition of churches and church vessels, with the beauty of services and icons, with the following of church rules; he made sure that his priests treated all sacred things with great awe, especially the Holy Gifts; he corrected various shortcomings among the clergy, especially pride, haughtiness, and avarice. The Lord was well-pleased with such ardent zeal on the part of the saint for putting the house of God in order. The following event was a visible manifestation of God’s favor:
In 1754 St. Joasaph made one of his frequent journeys through his bishopric. In the city of Izyum he paid great attention to the main church. Upon entering the church, he immediately looked with amazement at a large icon of the Mother of God standing in the corner of the narthex, behind which the altar boys shook out charcoal from the censer. Getting down on his knees before the icon, the saint exclaimed: “O Heavenly Queen, forgive the negligence of Thy unworthy servitors!” Then, turning to the eldest priest, he said: “Why is this icon not put in a better place? God’s special grace rests upon this icon. It is a sign of the Holy Virgin’s particular intercession for us here and for our entire country.” Then St. Joasaph ordered the icon to be placed in the left-hand choir, and came daily to pray before it. There was a very special reason for such a command. When St. Joasaph was on the point of departing from Belgorod, he saw in his dreams a certain church and in it, on a pile of rubbish, an icon of the Mother of God. The icon shone with a radiant light and a voice said: “Look at what the priests of this church have done with My image! My icon is intended to be a source of grace for the entire land, while they have thrown it on a pile of rubbish.” Astounded by such a dream, St. Joasaph examined each church in the course of his travels, checking whether it matched the one seen in the dream. When he entered the above-mentioned church and saw the icon which he had seen in his dream, he ordered everything to be done as described above. The Theotokos did not delay in showing Her favor: the icon, called the Peschan Mother of God, soon began to produce many miracles and attract many pilgrims from all over Russia.
While rectifying the various shortcomings in his diocese and punishing those who were truly to blame, St. Joasaph at the same time attempted to lovingly cure human weaknesses. The Lord endowed him with the ability to see deep into the hearts of men, to which the following extraordinary case bears witness. While traveling through his diocese, St. Joasaph noticed a very ancient priest. Learning that the latter was 130 years old and living with great difficulty, St. Joasaph advised the priest to think back whether there was some forgotten and unconfessed sin on his conscience, which bound him to such an unbearably long life. After pondering a while, the old priest did remember a forgotten sin and told St. Joasaph of how, in fear of an evil landowner, he had served two liturgies on the same day, despite having heard an unearthly voice say to him: “Stop! What are you doing? Do not dare, lest you suffer damnation!” And the priest even compounded his sin by replying: may you be damned yourself. Upon hearing this, and realizing that the old priest had cursed the angel of that church, St. Joasaph brought him to an awareness of the enormity of his sin, and then blessed him to serve a liturgy, during which the saint earnestly prayed on his knees. After the liturgy the saint absolved the priest of all his sins, and immediately the old man began to weaken and, falling at the foot of the altar table, died peacefully.
St. Joasaph’s administration of the Belgorod diocese was quite brief. In 1753 he became ill of consumption, from which he died on December 10, 1754. The relics of St. Joasaph were found incorruptible and produced many miracles. St. Joasaph was canonized on September 4, 1911, in the reign of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and with the active cooperation of this most pious Sovereign.
Daily, at 3:00 in the afternoon, the hour in which our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, St. Joasaph said a special prayer to the Saviour, which he has also bequeathed to us:
Blessed is the day and hour in which my Lord Jesus Christ was born, suffered on the cross, and died for my sake. O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, in the hour of my death welcome the spirit of Thy servant, an earthly wanderer, by the prayers of Thy Most-holy Mother and all Thy saints, for Thou art blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
On the same day the Church celebrates the icon of the Mother of God “The Burning Bush.”
One of the Old Testament images of the Mother of God was the burning bush – the bush which the prophet Moses saw burning yet not being consumed by the flames. This bush signified the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ by the Holy Virgin. This concept gave rise to the icon “The Burning Bush.” The icon is greatly venerated by the Russian people, who believe that it protects the homes of the faithful from fire. This icon has shown great power in saving people during lightning storms and fires, and in saving homes from burning flames. For this reason the faithful keep such an icon in their homes, pray before it during violent storms, while in case of a fire they bring it out to quench the flames. “The Burning Bush” is represented in the form of an octagonal star surrounding the Mother of God. The star consists of two quadrangles. One of them is painted red to represent the color of flames, while the other is painted green as a symbol of the mystic bush. In the corners of the icon there are the four symbols mentioned in the Apocalypse: the man, the lion, the calf, and the eagle; and also the Archangels, with the symbols which church tradition attributes to them: Michael with the flaming sword, Raphael with the urn, Uriel with the staff, Selaphiel with the censor, Barachiel with the bunch of grapes, and Gabriel with the branch of glad tidings. Sometimes a ladder is placed in the arms of the Holy Virgin besides the Holy Infant, with its upper end leaning against the Theotokos’ shoulder – a symbol of Her having elevated mankind from earth to heaven.
Homily for the feast day of Saint Joasaph, coinciding with the 13th Sunday after Pentecost
In today’s Gospel reading, dear brethren, we heard the parable of the wicked vineyard tenders. In this parable the Lord allegorically describes the plan of action used by Jewish elders – the Pharisees and the scribes – to lure God’s chosen people, who had been entrusted into their care, away from the One true God and to seduce them into worshipping His adversary – Satan. Speaking about this in the parable, the Lord clearly revealed to the elders that, on the one hand, He knew of their hidden designs, while on the other hand He did not yet openly denounce them, giving them the opportunity to recant. Later, however, seeing how firmly set they were on their destructive course, He denounced them openly, and the Evangelist Matthew gives us the Lord’s accusatory speech in its entirety – “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” – a speech in which the Lord described, point by point, how the Jewish people were being enslaved into falsehood, and He specifically named the Jewish elders – those wicked vineyard tenders of the parable – as sons of the devil.
But the parable of the evil vineyard tenders did not apply solely to the Jews of Christ’s time. Today we, too, live in a world which represents the next-to-last stage of the parable – a world which is totally in the hands of the evil vineyard tenders – the successors of those scribes and Pharisees whom the Lord had denounced; a world in which all the servants and even the Son of the Master of the vineyard have been killed; a world which is nearing the time of reckoning, i.e. the Last Judgment.
Truly we see all around us that the evil vineyard tenders have killed all the servants of the Master: they have killed morality, they have killed honesty, they have killed justice, they have killed beauty, they have killed piety, they have killed fear of God. Before our very eyes even the Son of the Master is being killed: Christianity is being killed by neo-paganism and innumerable heresies, Christian churches are being killed by ecumenism and modernism, Christian youth is being spiritually killed by various methods of demonization, while the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is being killed through desecration, ridicule, profanity, sacrilege. This is what the world has come to in the hands of the wicked vineyard tenders, dear brethren!
However, although the hour of judgment is at hand and, as we heard in the parable, the Master of the vineyard will come and will destroy the wicked husbandmen, that hour has not yet arrived, and in the meantime how should we, Orthodox Christians, continue to live in this spiritually desolate vineyard? At this point we are helped by the example of the saint whom we commemorate today – Saint Joasaph of Belgorod. In the service to the saint there is a certain canticle which contains the following words: “As the night grows darker, the stars shine brighter, and the eyes of lost wanderers are joyfully raised to them; similarly, seeing the darkness of sin increase on earth, let us lift our gaze upward, and seeing there the virtues of St. Joasaph shining brightly, may we be encouraged to strive towards the heavenly homeland.”
This is our answer, dear brethren: no matter how thick the darkness around us, we must only lift our eyes towards heaven, i.e. we must open our spiritual eyes, we must appeal to God and the saints, – and immediately the right path of life will be revealed to us, and we will know for sure how to live and what to do. Despite the terrible darkness of evil and sin that surrounds us, we continue to have in our possession all the necessary means for salvation: we have the Church with its sacraments and services, we have the Lord’s commandments and the word of God, we have the power of prayer and fasting, we have the lives of saints as a role model, and we also have the greatest gift of the love and intercession of the Holy Mother of God. Today we celebrate one of Her icons, named “The Burning Bush”; this icon has the power to save the faithful not only from physical fire, but also from the fire of sin and the flames of passion. And so you see, dear brethren, – we have everything we need, we must only make use of it and not immerse ourselves in the surrounding darkness.
And St. Joasaph of Belgorod provides us with a wonderful example of salvation: look how concerned he was about churches and church services; how he promoted a pious regard for holy things; how he prayed and fasted; and, at the same time, what love he had for those around him, and how he tried to correct their failings not with harsh words, but with compassion and the example of his own life.
We should do the same, dear brethren. And if we open our spiritual eyes, we will see the spiritual firmament all covered with brightly shining stars: these are the saints, our intercessors, calling us into the heavenly homeland, the Kingdom of God. Amen.
SCIENCE AND RELIGION
The creation of the visible world
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2): such was the initial or general creative act of God.
The formless matter or chaos is called “the deep,” as an immense space unbound by anything, and “water,” as aqueous or gaseous matter. “Darkness was upon the face of the deep,” i.e. the entire chaotic mass was submersed in darkness due to absolute absence of light.
“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”: here is the beginning of God’s formative creativity. In accordance with the meaning of the word “moved” (the Hebrew word used here has the following meaning: embraced all matter as a bird spreads its wings to embrace and warm its chicks), the action of the Spirit of God upon primordial matter should be understood as transmission to it of the living force necessary for its formation and development.
The first day of creation
The first act of God’s formative creativity was the creation of light: “And God said: let there be light! And there was light. – And the evening and the morning were the first day” (1:3-5).
This narrative appears to contradict the sensory perception that regards light as emanating from the sun. But the writer of Genesis goes even further. From the very first appearance of light he surmises the correct sequence of day and night, while according to universal observation this sequence is related to the appearance and disappearance of the sun. In former times this circumstance served as an inexhaustible source of mockery of the Genesis on the part of such free-thinkers as Voltaire and others. Meanwhile, the most recent scientific researches confirm the veracity of the Biblical narrative. They prove conclusively that by its nature light is completely independent of the sun. It is the result (consequence) of the vibration of the atmosphere, which now occurs primarily through the sun, but which can be produced by many other causes. Just as a taut string vibrates not only from the touch of a bow upon it, but from other causes, such as a simple movement of air, so could the atmosphere, which now vibrates as a result of the periodic influences of the sun, diffuse its light waves without the sun and before it. Thus Moses positively established this scientific fact thousands of years before science.
Even more amazing is his surmised sequence of change of day and night before the appearance of the sun. But in this regard the latest scientific discoveries also satisfactorily explain such an occurrence. If the primordial light appeared before the sun and could have been, like the light of our aurora borealis for example, the result of the union of two opposing electrical currents, then there obviously must have been moments when this light began, reached its most intense brightness, and then once again diminished and disappeared. Thus, in the words of the Biblical narrative, there could have been night and day before the appearance of the sun which usually serves as the criterion for determining these segments of time. Once again the question arises: how could Moses have known these purely scientific facts before science? The only answer to this can be that his writing was inspired from above.
The second day of creation
The second creative act forms the firmament. “And God said: let there be firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And it was so. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And God called the firmament Heaven. And God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the second day” (1:6-8).
The firmament is the aerial space, or the visible sky. The origin of the firmament or the visible sky can be imagined thusly. The immeasurably immense mass of primordial aqueous matter suddenly broke up by God’s command into millions of individual spheres, which began whirling on their axes and sped along their individual orbits. The space which emerged between these spheres became the firmament; for within this space the movement of the newly-created worlds was established by the Lord according to definite and immutable laws of gravity, so that they did not collide with one another and did not impede each other’s movement. The waters above the firmament were these newly-created worlds, which subsequently shaped up and from the fourth day of creation began shining and glittering above our heads, while as to the waters under the firmament – that was our planet Earth. All of this was still called water, because on the second day of creation it still had not received a firm arrangement or solid shape.
The third day of creation
The Earth was subsequently so arranged that life appeared on it, although only the lowest form of it, specifically vegetative life. “And God said: let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let dry land appear. And it was so. And God called the dry land earth; and the gathering together of the waters called He seas. And God said: let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth. And God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day” (1:9-13).
The separation of the waters from the dry land on the third day should not be imagined as a simple event, as a distillation of ready-made water from solid segments of earth, so-to-speak. Water did not yet exist in the form and the chemical composition that we know today. Thus, firstly, by the Lord’s creative word the ugly and shapeless matter of our planet was transformed on the third day of the world into two forms: water and dry land were created, and the latter immediately formed on its surface various reservoirs for water: rivers, lakes, and seas. Secondly, our planet became clothed in a thin and transparent veil of atmosphere, and gases appeared with their numerous admixtures. Thirdly, even land itself became the subject of creative activity – not only on its surface, with the formation of mountains, valleys, etc., but within its very bowels – with the formation of its various strata, metals, minerals, etc. Fourthly, by the Creator’s special command there appeared all kinds of vegetation on Earth. Finally, it should be presumed that on the third day of the world all the other dark and chaotic masses of celestial bodies received their final arrangement in accordance with their purpose.
The creative activity of the third day may be imagined more clearly in the following form. The Earth was still all water. Then God said: “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear. And it was so.” The gradually cooling matter solidified and became raised in some places and lowered in others; the elevated places shed water and became dry land, while the depressions and hollows filled with the water running into them and formed the seas. “And God called the dry land earth; and the gathering together of the waters called He seas. And God saw that it was good.” But the Earth did not yet possess that which constituted the purpose of its creation: there was still no life on it, only the bare cliffs gloomily looked upon the reservoirs of water. But then, when the distribution of water and dry land was accomplished and the requisite conditions for life appeared, by the word of God there immediately appeared its first beginnings – in the form of vegetation: “And God said: let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth; and it was so. And God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.”
Science knows the remnants of this vegetation, which amazes by its majestic size. That which is now an insignificant blade of grass, as our fern for example, in primordial times was an immense tree. The threads of our modern moss in primordial times were almost two meters in diameter. This raises an objection: how could this mighty vegetation have been produced without the influence of the sun’s rays, which shone upon the Earth only on the next, the fourth day? And in this case, too, scientific research irrefutably confirms the Biblical narrative. It has now been proven that plants only need light in general and not sunlight exclusively; and, as we know, light already existed from the very first day of creation. Experiments were made with electrical light, which was found to contain all the qualities necessary to the growth of vegetation. The scientist Famintsyn achieved important results in this respect even with the help of the intensified light of a simple kerosene lamp. However, another objection arises: in that same layer of earth in which traces of organic life appear for the first time, and in which according to the Biblical narrative the earth produced only vegetation, together with the plants we also find animal organisms: corals and mollusks and gelatinous animals in simplest forms. But this objection can also be dismissed: the Earth’s layers are not separated from one another by an impermeable wall; on the contrary, during the Earth’s thousands of years there were all kinds of fluctuations and changes in their arrangement, as a result of which they became mixed together and moved from one to the other.
Although the vegetation was able to develop under the influence of primordial light, its development under such circumstances, however, could not have resulted in the infinite variety we see in it today. Majestic in size, it was meager in form and color. It did not consist of anything but green vegetation: we do not come upon a single flower in the strata of the coal period. Apparently it needed the measured light of our current celestial bodies.
(To be continued)
(Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, “Brief collection of articles on apologetics”)
(The poem is dedicated to the Royal Martyrs)
In times of darkest tribulation
Give us the patience, dearest Lord,
To bear all tortures and persecution
From our people’s butchering foes.
Give us the strength, o righteous Saviour,
Iniquities of others to forgive,
And with Thine own humility to shoulder
Our burdensome and bloody cross.
In times of mutinous rebellion,
When we are looted by our foes,
Help us, o Jesus Christ, our Saviour,
Endure humiliation and disgrace!
O Lord and Master of the world!
Bless us with prayer’s mighty strength,
And to the humble soul give peace
In its excruciating mortal hour.
And at the threshold of the grave
Breathe into Thy servants’ humble mouths
The superhuman strength and power
To meekly pray for all their foes!
– Sergey Bekhteyev
– Translated by Natalia Sheniloff