29 September 2013

Sermon by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia after the pine Liturgy in the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Moscow’s Novospassky Monastery, the Resting Place of the Romanoff Family before their Ascension to the Ru

Sermon by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia after the pine Liturgy in the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Moscow’s Novospassky Monastery, the Resting Place of the Romanoff Family before their Ascension to the Russian throne. Given on September 29, 2013.

Your Beatitudes, Your Eminences! Honored Bishop Savva! Dear fathers, brothers, sisters, and high officials of the government!

I would like to congratulate you all warmly on this Sunday and to say that we are gathered today at a special time, in a special place. Four hundred years ago Mikhail Feodorovich Romanoff ascended the throne—after the dreadful Time of Troubles, after the extinction of the Riurikovich dynasty, when our country had gone through a series of historic events, which could have culminated in the complete destruction of our state, the loss of our independence, and a change in its cultural, spiritual, and religious traditions. In other words, the Time of Troubles could have led the Russian people to oblivion. In the 1000-year history of our Fatherland, there were few events such as this; and the Time of Troubles was worse than the Tatar Yoke because the Tatars, who lived outside of Russia, demanded only taxes and nonresistance. The Time of Troubles was accompanied by an invasion of Rus’ by those who may have perhaps wanted to take Russia’s wealth, but that was not the most important thing. They wanted the soul of our people, they wanted our spiritual strength, and they threw all their efforts into that goal.

We know that the successes of the enemy in many ways followed on the betrayal of our elite, who, having embarked on a factional war to achieve their own goals—their narrow, personal, and family’s goals—were prepared to renounce their homeland and betray their faith. But we also know that, by God’s Grace, this did not happen. And it was precisely by God’s Grace that it did not happen, because from the point of view of an objective analysis of the situation, Russia had very little chance of surviving. The elite was pided. No one trusted anyone anymore. The law ceased to operate. Power was seized by those with the strength to take it. In addition to foreign occupation, there was brigandage on the roads, and in the towns and villages. Armed bands raided and looted homes and set fire to towns and cities, opening the way for those who wanted to ascend the Russian throne. We know that there was practically no chance to save ourselves [from these horrors]. But a chance presented itself; and the source of our victory was not the wisdom of our elite, not the talents of our military commanders, not our economic strength, and not military might. The source of our salvation was our faith, and along with our faith, our national identity. Faith was that great force that lifted up the people to resist, to liberate the country from foreign invaders—and then an amazing thing: faith lifted the people up to select freely a sovereign. Not by force, not by the sword, but by the free choice of the people was Mikhail Feodorovich Romanoff, the son of Patriarch Filaret, raised to the throne. And this was a unique moment—not only politically but also spiritually. This decision was made possible only because the people were believers and had not betrayed their faith; and along with their faith, they had not betrayed their great historical traditions, their religious culture, and their national identity. From ashes, literally and figuratively, our Fatherland was reborn.

Today, September 29 according to the new calendar, here at Novospassky Monastery, the ancestral resting place of the House of Romanoff, we have served the pine Liturgy, during which we heard the remarkable words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians. He says that a person is not saved by the works of the law but by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16). Of course, the Old Testament required (at least in the religious practices of the time of our Savior) a thorough and scrupulous observance of the external rules of the Law, and people believed that it was enough for them to fulfill these external rules—to do this or that regarding food, or one’s home, or one’s body. They had many such rules, and the desire to observe them formed in the people a certain superstitious regard for the outward expressions of religiosity. Superstition is different from true faith in that it does not require any inner action on our parts, it does not require any spiritual exertion, does not require any struggle. It is enough merely to perform this or that action that is considered holy, not investing any faith or spirit into it, and you automatically receive that which you desire—in this case, salvation.

The teachings of Christ the Savior and the teachings of the Apostle Paul demolish this world of superstition. The Apostle Paul reveals a completely new spiritual perspective when he says that the Law itself cannot save humanity. The Apostle emphasizes that which the Jews of his time ignored: the true, inner faith; the labors of mind, spirit, and will, without which labor there can be so salvation.

In our modern life, we sometimes want to take the path of least resistance, the easy path, thinking that it will be enough if we just fulfill all the external rituals. We color eggs, we bake Kulich [Easter cake], we put up candles, we fulfill all these other rites and it thus seems to us that this will be enough—well, what more is there? And if we sometimes go to church we may think that we have done all we are supposed to do, regardless of what we do when we are there—pray, or just look around from side to side. This is completely wrong. The Apostle Paul teaches us that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ saves because without faith there is no link between God and Man, no link by which pine Grace flows, no link by which our prayers ascend to God. It is precisely this exchange between God and Man—prayer, and the Grace from God it elicits—that is salvific.

It was by random chance that our pious ancestors had to go through the Time of Troubles. It is possible that Russia’s successful process of state-building, successes in various aspects of the nation’s life, and especially the strengthening of the Church in the sixteenth century produced a lot of confidence that we are Holy Russia, that all these accomplishments have happened on their own. We are building churches, we are building monasteries, we are creating eparchies, we have many holy ascetics, we stand for hours in church—it is sufficient. But it was God’s Will to allow our country to undergo its hardest test. We were nearly at the bottom of the abyss. We were on the verge of extinction as a people and as a nation. One can imagine what was going on in the hearts of honest people who saw the brigandage on the roads, the chaos, the treachery; and what strength one had to have—strength of faith and strength in prayer—for there to be a spiritual renewal of the people such that the Lord would send down to us His Mercy! And all this was achieved by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, because only one thing was left: faith. And this faith nourished the people and brought to life a great creative force, and together with it appeared the skill and the know-how and military glory and the ability to lead a battle against an enemy that was many times over more powerful [than us]. And they were able to organize themselves, and to pool their resources—the people lunged forward, passing through terrible trials.

We know that at least several more times the Lord led our nation through similar tests, one of which was the revolution, followed by the civil war. It was thought then that everything was fine: there were many churches and monasteries and millions of believers. Fulfill the Law, preserve the outward forms of religiosity, and that will be sufficient. But the Lord led us this time through the most difficult test precisely so we might understand that it is not by works, not by the fulfillment of the Law, but by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ that we are saved.

And now we are living through a time that is little different from what we endured previously in our history. And today, on the one hand, we see the external prosperity of the Church and the desire of some to live only by its external rules; but, on the other hand, we see such dangers surrounding us closely, dangers related to the rise of a new atheism, a new rejection of history, a new and radical rejection of all that is good that has come to us from our past! In order for us not to fall again over the cliff, not again to drink from the bitter cup, we must not forget in this time of plenty the words of the Apostle Paul, that we are saved by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We must live this faith, we must be strengthened by this faith, we must form our worldview and our relations to the surrounding world by it, we must raise future generations and nourish our lives by this faith.

With this festive pine service, we continue our Church-wide celebration of the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanoff. These celebrations began in the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin, continued in Ekaterinburg, at the site of the executions of the last Emperor, then moved to the Ss. Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, where Emperors from Peter the Great on are buried. And today, here, in the resting place of the Romanoffs, we continue our celebrations, which gives us the opportunity to remember the past, to connect the past with our faith, with our religious beliefs, to draw very important conclusions about life in the modern world, and at the same time to pray for our future, for the future of all of historical Rus’, all the peoples of Russia, Ukraine, Belorus, and others who are linked to the common Kievan baptismal font; to pray for the government of Russia, to pray for our youth, for those who for perhaps many reasons and circumstances find it difficult to understand that which older people comprehend. God grant that our nation’s faith be strengthened, that it remain a great staff directing the historical path of development of our people. We believe that the Lord will bless us according to our faith, and may our faith remain in our hearts, nourishing our lives and giving us great hope for the future. Amen.

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