ORTHODOXY IS PAINFUL – Иверский Орский женский монастырь



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Sermon on the Day of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia 

Holy Trinity Cathedral. Iveron Monastery of Orsk



In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

Once, a woman came to our monastery. She came up to me and said, “I came to your monastery to live. My life broke me down. It brought me so much sorrow, disappointment and perplexity that, being overstrained, I came here, to this quiet place, in order to spend the rest of my days peacefully, to enjoy silence, peace and relevant inner comfort.”  I told that woman then, “In no way should you go into a monastery.” Certainly, she was bewildered by my sudden answer. I said, “On no occasion should you go into a monastery because you do not understand what a monastery is. In your stereotypes, a monastery is a place where you can sit tight and wait it out. You do not understand at all that a monastery is the front line. Bombs and bullets whizz and people are killed here and pieces of flesh fly apart. You have no idea what a monastery is. You have made up a story for yourself about a quiet comfortable place, where one can sit out, but this is not about a monastery. I assure you as I have a little monastic experience. You have fancied something and in a month you will be so disappointed that you will leave cursing us.” 

The same we can say not only about monastic life but also about Christianity in general. Some people invent a stereotype about Christianity. They fancy it is the religion where you come and get everything you want: comfort, peace, well-being, everything will be set in your family, you will have inner harmony, and you will always be inside of an everlasting pink cloud. I often say such terrifying words as “Orthodoxy is painful” and “Orthodoxy is horrible.” Those who convert into a different Orthodoxy should better not convert at all, or you will be disappointed. Go to a hall of meditation, where you will dive into an illusion and be in peace, in the peace of absolute indifference. Orthodoxy hurts and it is fearful. Christ did not deceive anyone. From the beginning, He disappointed many people who came to  Him, “If you want to be My disciple, take up your cross and follow Me.”1 However, He was honest, “My religion is the religion of the cross.” And the highest confirmation of His sincerity  is that He was the first One to go through the Cross. Then, all of the Christians martyrs followed Him. It happens that a teacher teaches something that he does not practice himself.  Our Heavenly Teacher did not only say but went through this Cross the first. No one can reproach Him for hypocrisy. No one can reproach Him for pretension or falsehood because He can tell anyone of us from His Cross, “Well, I did not deceive you. I honestly and openly told you that Orthodoxy is the cross. If you want to be My disciple, take up your cross.”  If you want well-being, you should choose another religion, here is the wrong place for you. Our well-being comes through the cross. The cross first, then resurrection. The cross first, then well-being. 

Often, when people come up and ask me what special prayer they should read or what icon they should approach to ask for this, for that, for anything, I tell them “Go to the Cross, look at His arms and legs, His ribs, and then ask. No, do not ask, demand. Do not hesitate to demand, as He said in the Gospel, “Ask and you will be given.”2 Say, ‘I demand and You should give it to me.’ Go and try, particularly before the Cross. If you want to go to the Theotokos, you may go to the Theotokos.” We have just sung, “Deliver us from every need and sorrow.” We sing this to the One Who heard at the very beginning, when She brought a little Baby to the temple for churching, the first words She heard, “A sword will pierce through Your own soul.3 It will pierce the bottom of Your heart. Your Son is born to die, so every son and daughter of all earthly women could live forever. He will be the First to come through this point of death.” What does the Theotokos say? “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”4 

Ask the Crucified One, ask the Mother of God, ask our martyrs to deliver you from martyrdom. If you have the heart, ask them. Perhaps, the most sincere Christian prayer sounds very shortly like, “Your will be done.”5 

Why am I saying all this now? Today we commemorate the new martyrs and confessors of the Russian Church. Not even hundreds or thousands but millions of them agreed to the cross in the twentieth century. The Lord did not disappoint them, when He did not multiply loaves, or open eyes, or heal paralytics, but said, “My religion is the religion of the cross.”   To which millions of our new martyrs said, simply, shortly and honestly, “We agree.” How easy it is for me now to say these words “we agree.” And how unbearably difficult it is to say them at the threshold of life and death. The throat becomes dry, the tongue refuses to move and the legs give way. Nevertheless, millions of people at our Church suddenly say “Your will be done.” At the threshold of life and death. And the Lord did not disappoint them. How do you think, did every one of them pray with Christ’s prayer “let this cup pass from Me?”6 Certainly, they did. They were humans  and had natural fear, the sense of pain and anxiety. But suddenly they allow themselves to pronounce these words “Your will be done.” If I cannot but drink this cup, let it be so.  

What a great day it is today! You know, sometimes we read the lives of the venerables and martyrs and involuntarily we begin to imagine ourselves in their place and compare ourselves to them. Frankly speaking, it is even shameful for me to take up any role and compare myself to them. Sincerely, it is a shame for me to get into a character because they are so high and I am so low. I cannot even imagine how I could stand all this, I cannot, my conscience does not allow me. Only with God can one stand out. You only need to change your religion of comfort to the religion of the cross. Lord, I agree, but please support me. I agree but You can see that I cannot do this without You. Please support me. This “I agree” is the clue, it is the essence. What does one need to give for this “I agree?” Our worldly well-being, everything that we come here with, put down into the commemoration notes, for the health, for the travelers, for those who are in sorrow, or for the pregnant. This is all we should give for the “I agree.” Lord Jesus Christ. 

Orthodoxy is painful and Orthodoxy is horrible. The only thing I can say is “Lord, I agree. The rest is in Your hands.” And nothing else. 

Glory to our God, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages!

1 Mt. 16:24

2 Mt. 7:7

3 Lk. 2:35

4 Lk. 1:38

5 Mt. 6:10

6 Mt. 26:39