17 May 2011, 14:33
Epistle of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad
We, the Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, having gathered for a regular session of the Council of Bishops at the Synodal Residence in the God-preserved city of New York, under the presence of our Protectress, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, address our beloved flock with the Paschal greeting: “Christ is Risen!” Today, beloved brothers and sisters, the Bright Holiday of Holidays continues both in Heaven and on earth. We repeat once again those wondrous, triumphant words from the Paschal service: “This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us be glad and rejoice therein.”
Since the time of the last Council of Bishops, and specifically last fall, a significant anniversary not only for the diaspora of the Church but in the pages of Russian Church history took place: the 90th anniversary of the canonical establishment of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. On November 6/19, 1920, within view of “Tsargrad,” Constantinople, over a hundred twenty-five vessels stood at anchor, containing a great mass of 150,000 Russian refugees from Crimea, and on the ship Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich the first meeting of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration in the South of Russia outside of the borders of the Fatherland was held, which laid down the foundation for our Church Abroad.
This meeting was presided over by our Abba, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of blessed memory. This year marks the 75th anniversary of his righteous death: the founder of the Russian Church Abroad departed to the Lord on July 28/August 10, 1936, a day the Church commemorates the appearance of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, called the “Hodigitria.” If the Lord gave His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon the Confessor the task of resisting all the efforts of the forces of the Antichrist, “to hold the Russian Church firmly with the Cross,” as St John of Shanghai was later to say, “upon the surface of Russian life,” then Metropolitan Anthony had a different challenge: he was entrusted with preserving the Russian Church in the diaspora, which was the essence of the service of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
This service, the mission of the Church Abroad to spiritually nourish the Russian Orthodox people outside of their Fatherland and to preserve the traditions of the Russian Church, continues today. At the same time, by Divine providence, not only is our flock not diminishing, but it is actually increasing: over the last two decades, overwhelming majority of our parishioners today are actually those who for one reason or another found themselves outside of the borders of Historic Russia. This circumstance illustrates that the service of the Church Abroad has by no means been completed. At the same time, the dissemination of the light of Orthodoxy among the peoples of all the lands where our Church exists continues as an inseparable part of our mission.
Still, the churchification of Russian people, as well as the preservation of the Russian ecclesiastical tradition is a task of obedience for all of us in the diaspora, and within the ministry of the Church in the Fatherland. The rebirth of Rus’ as the Abode of the Most-Holy Mother of God and the spreading of the Orthodox Faith among the people, we know to be important not only for the future of our Russia, but of the whole world, within whose fate the Lord has granted Russian civilization a special standing.
Over the last few years, we have become witness to fatal floods, terrible earthquakes and hurricanes, which can instantly cause the mass destruction of human achievements. We observe with sorrow the death of many people at the hands of their brothers, the wicked destruction of the traditional family, the centuries-old cultural ways which are dying literally before our eyes. This instability and infirmity of everything which seems to us so fundamental reminds us that, as the Russians say, we all walk under God, and no one living on earth knows when the Lord will summon us, but all this is the fulfillment of the words of the Savior about the signs of the times.
For this reason we must be especially attentive to our salvation, for “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up,” as the holy Apostle warns the faithful (2 Peter 3:10).
And we, dear brothers and sisters, shall not fear, even as “the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalms 46:2), for we correctly believe that the Lord did not appoint our present world for the eternal life of renewed mankind, but in fact other, abodes which shall have no end.
The work of our Council concludes on the very day when four years ago, an important event took place, when all who love Holy Russia saw with their own eyes Divine Will revealed: the Act of Canonical Communion with the Russian Orthodox Church, in the Fatherland and abroad, was signed. Those to whom the Lord entrusted the helm of the Russian Church, to wit, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II and the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Laurus, of blessed memory both, were to overcome the many obstacles to the path of Church Unity. But firmly believing that Unity is pleasing to God and it is a salvific destination towards which to steer the Ship of the Church, they acted in concordance with Divine instructions, which resulted in many good fruits.
In a time when the world, to its sorrow, lost the understanding of the cornerstone of the Christian Holiday of the Pascha of Christ, for us Orthodox Christians, it remains the prototype of the future, eternal Pascha, for in the words of the Holy Apostle Paul, “and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Indeed Christ is Risen!
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
and the Members of the Council of Bishops.
May 14, 2011