HE FOREMOST HERESY. ON THE SUNDAY OF ALL SAINTS OF RUSSIA 26.06.2022
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
Today we commemorate All Saints of Russia. In addition, it is the day of the Venerable Fathers of Holy Mount Athos. We commemorate the people who were just like us, but who succeeded in becoming saints then. The foremost heresy dwelling in our contemporary Church and difficult to turn out from it is the conviction of many people that the time of saints passed long ago and became a part of history, and that we cannot live like saints, because we have fundamentally different conditions. How different are they? They are different due to our slackness and hypocrisy. I can understand when people neglect their salvation and feel sorry for that or keep silent with shame at least. However, some people hypocritically find excuses for their negligence in spiritual life providing some theories about being in such a time and conditions and appealing for taking this as a fact.
Excuse me, these phrases, which pass on from one Christian to another, do not agree with my heart. “The only thing left for us is repentance. We can find salvation only through overcoming sorrows.” I have a question, “What do you mean by repentance?” If we have a look at the root of this word, we will find out it comes from the Greek “metanoia” (μετάνοια), a “change of heart.” Change requires a feat and an action. If we understand repentance only as admittance of our sins, it means nothing. Do you think demons do not know they are sinful? They do know, but they do not do anything about this. This is not repentance; this is demonic repentance. In the Holy Gospel, we read that Judas, who betrayed Christ, repented and hung himself then. (Mt. 27:3) He repented. But was this repentance? No, it was not.
When we say, “Only repentance is left for us,” I always want to interpret this phrase. What do you mean by repentance? Could it be that Saint Antony the Great did not practice repentance? He did it in the IV century, 1600 years ago. What do you think Venerable Sergius of Radonezh did? He repented. What is the difference between our and their repentance? They differ only by our hypocrisy, which we mix in this word.
Repentance in its full meaning is an action. This action is executed within asceticism and spiritual life. The Holy Fathers came through this repentance, gained the experience of it and passed this experience on to us. Do you want to have repentance? You should act the way the Holy Fathers did. In order to act you should have determination and courage. Not simply, “Lord, I am sinful.” And what of it? What have you done to change, to have this metanoia? You should act correctly, and your acts should bring the result. “We meant the best, but it turned out as usual” will not do. You should have the result. Throughout two thousand years saints have come this way through sweat, sorrow and tears and left you their experience and you thoughtlessly say, “This experience will not work for me. It is obsolete and a part of history. We have only repentance.” But what is repentance?
It may seem that our ancestors, who led saintly lives in Ancient Rus, had different conditions. What conditions did they have? You may try to imagine yourselves in the shoes of those who lived during the Tatar-Mongol yoke. Those were horrible times. It was not convenient at all. An enemy could enter your house any day, abuse your wife, take her captive, kill your children and parents, humiliate and simply tread you to pieces. In the first centuries of Christianity, people could be deprived of their lives for belonging to Christ through terrible and unimaginable sufferings. Was that time convenient? You should compare that time to ours. We do not have our pension increased and think this is the end of the world. At that time, if you were a Christian, the main issues were life and death. In addition, you should try to love your enemies.
It seems to me our time is not inconvenient by its external conditions, the matter is in our hypocrisy. We allowed ourselves hypocrisy; we have let ourselves deceive ourselves, people surrounding us, and God. Moreover, lying, we quote the Holy Gospel and the Holy Fathers, this is shameless. I can understand a sinner, who realizes his or her sinfulness and drops his eyes, remaining silent and humble. On the other hand, when a Christian pours quotations and some fine words, but does nothing – this is a shame. Shame is a gift of God, given to a human from the moment of creation, and we have lost this gift. Discredited it as useless. St. Symeon the New Theologian asked his teacher St. Symeon the Devout, “How should I find salvation?” To which the latter answered, “Always judge your conscience and call Jesus all the time.” Our conscience gives us discomfort, which is why we have hidden it in a wardrobe. It makes our life a misery. First of all, we would like to live comfortably, but it does not let us. Even in prayer, we seek warmness, tenderness and joy. It concerns our asceticism as well. When I ask, “What do you want from your spiritual life?” “I want everything to be peaceful, comfortable and kind.” I say, “You need to go to Buddhism then.” If you want Christ, Who bears the sorrow of the world every day and every moment, are you ready for accepting Him with all this? At this moment sometimes, it happens like in the Holy Gospel, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (Jn. 6:66) Only a few stayed.
Let us come back to our consciousness. Let us stop saying that we have different times. Holy Father Seraphim contradicts us saying, “Times are the same. There is no determination.” In comparison to me, Holy Father Seraphim of Sarov has indisputable authority, and he says these words. The matter is not in the times, it is in our indetermination. We have the necessary conditions, the same help God sends us, and the same love of the Holy Trinity, which has not diminished. Something happens inside of us.
Father Philaret tells me, “I stand within the new church and there are so many saints surrounding me. I even feel a little ashamed.” Let us look at them more often. Not in the eye of one another, being hypocritical, but at them. Many of them hold crosses in their hands; this is the sign of martyrdom. The venerables have crosses too, as being a venerable equals martyrdom as well. In fact, Christianity is martyrdom, as the Lord says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mt. 16:24) There are no other ways or conditions. Ready for the cross, then follow! If not, go and consider.
All Saints of Russia, pray to God for us! Most Holy Mother Theotokos, Protectress of our Holy Homeland, save us! Holy Trinity, our Lord, glory to You!