Saturday, May 31, 2008

An edifying, true story: How the Word of God renews a man

From "The One Thing Needful", by Archbishop Andrei of Novo-Diveyevo.

The Word of God has the wonderful power to renew the soul of a sinner. I will not explain to you how this happens, but will simply tell you something that happened in St. Petersburg. Here it is:

There lived a family — a grandmother and grandson. The grandson was an Imperial Guardsman. His parents had died when he was still young, and his grandmother took their place. They were magnates, incalculably rich, millionaires. Vladimir, as this officer was called, while still a young man become satiated with everything that only the life of wealthy Russians could provide at that time. Like the life of the rich man in today’s parable, his life was spent in gaiety and carousing. He had a good heart and his friends loved him as a person from whom they could always get anything they wanted. The word "no" did not exist for him.

But once his grandmother called Vladimir and said: "Vladimir, after my death, you will have no one. Your friends will strip you of everything, and you will perish a lonely, unfortunate man. Get married."

Vladimir answered, "All right, Grandmother, I will get married."

The grandmother found a fiancée for him — a princess from an impoverished family. Vladimir danced with her two or three times at parties and proposed to her. And then, because the wedding was set for only after the Christmas season, and Vladimir’s life went on in its routine way — in a fog of merry-making and revelry — he wouldn’t even have been able to remember her name right away. And if he had met her on the street, he probably wouldn’t have recognized her.

Yet the closer the wedding day approached, the more troubled his soul became. And finally came the second day after the Baptism of Christ. He had to go to his army office in order to get his salary and his vacation for the honeymoon. This was the first time he had gone out in St. Petersburg at such an early hour and, moreover, in a sober state. Usually, when he was traveling in Petersburg at this hour or still earlier, it was after a night spent in extreme debauchery, and then he was usually dozing off, oblivious to his surroundings. But today, as if for the first time, he saw Petersburg during working hours. On everything lay the impression of the businesslike seriousness of a morning in a metropolitan city. And upon his soul there lay, like a heavy stone, something unusually businesslike and serious: marriage, family life, obligations which he never had, never knew.

Upon arrival at his office, he received his papers and money — his large purse was filled with gold coins. When he went out, he wanted to be alone and walk. He ordered the driver to follow him on the roadway, and he himself walked on foot. Without noticing it, he reached the cathedral of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. Just at that moment the bell rang. And for the first time, he felt drawn to enter church. Of course, he had been to church services, moliebens and pannihidas, but only because this was required by his social standing. But now, an inner need manifested itself. The cathedral was plunged in a cozy half-darkness. The Miraculous Icon was simply shining in brilliance. In spite of the winter season there were white lilies. The reading of the Akathist (Molieben — a petitionary service. Pannihida — a requiem service for the dead. Akathist — a service in honor and praise of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, or one of the saints.) was still going on. There was a deep prayerful singing, a multitude of candles and devotion lamps, and more and more people — praying, weeping. Vladimir froze. He had not prayed for a long, longtime. All he could say was: "O Mother of God! I am coming to a turning point in my life. If it has to be so, help me. But if all this is not necessary, stop it." And here, he himself thought that this was no way to pray, that he didn’t even know how to pray.

Suddenly someone tenderly touched his sleeve. It was a beggar woman with a child in her arms. "Sir, help me," she whispered.

He thrust his hand into his pocket, pulled out his large purse, and put it in her hand. Because of the weight of the purse, she almost dropped it.

"Sir," she exclaimed, "I cannot take it. People will say I have stolen it."

"Don’t be afraid, my card is in the purse. Say that I gave it to you."

"Sir, and what about you? You are giving away everything...and yourself?"

"Don’t you understand, I have everything, I don’t need anything."

"All right, I will take it. But know this: you are saving two lives — mine and my child’s. How can I repay your kindness?"

"You know what? Yes, you can help me. I don’t know how to pray; but I am in need of prayer, right now, for my soul. Otherwise I will perish." She looked at him with a long, compassionate look. She bowed and disappeared into the crowd.

But then he saw her again. She approached the Miraculous Icon, put her baby on one of the steps before the Icon, and started praying and making prostrations. Tears were streaming down her pale face. A shiver ran down his spine. He understood. This was a prayer for him. He quickly walked out of the church, went one block until he reached Great Konushenna Street. After the semi-darkness of the cathedral, the bright sun on the white snow blinded him. He felt a sharp, sudden pain in his eyes, then in his head, and he lost consciousness.

When he recovered, he sensed that he was lying on a table in his full Guard’s uniform. He had fallen into a lethargic sleep (Lethargic sleep — a comatose condition in which all bodily functions become undetectable and the person appears to be dead), and now he was starting to wake up. He still couldn’t move, couldn’t open his eyes, but he heard everything. Only he thought that he had died, and everything he heard he accepted as if he were dead. And everyone around him was sure that he was dead, and they prepared him for burial.

And now he understood the reverse side of life. He heard two voices — male and female. The man’s voice said: "At least for the sake of decency, put your handkerchief to your eyes. After all, he was your fiancé."

And the female voice said: "Papa, you know how I hated and despised him. Only your debts made me agree to this marriage. I cannot continue this comedy."

And then his friends approached. All of them were in debt to him. "How wonderful that Vladimir died, and I don’t have to pay back what he, good man that he was, loaned to me."

And so more and more all the hypocrisy of the life he had been living was revealed to him. The tears of only one person were sincere. His nurse, who had taken the place of his father and mother, was sobbing.

Then they started to read the Psalter. Before, he had not understood them; but now, each word of the Psalms excited his awakening soul. All the depth of God’s Mercy was revealed to him. God’s Truth was revealed against the background of human lies. And then he heard a movement. He understood, the clergy had come and they were starting to serve the pannihida. And when they began to sing: "With the Saints give rest...," and when they lifted his body to put it in the coffin, he caught his breath, recovered consciousness and began to move. Out of fear, the bearers dropped the coffin and ran out of the room. Vladimir remained alone. But by now he was not the same. In the middle of the empty room stood the renewed Vladimir.

When everything had calmed down, he divided all his property. Half he gave to his fiancée and all the rest to the poor. And he forgave all the debts. Soon afterwards, he became a monk and finished his ascetic life as archimandrite of the Kostroma Monastery.

This is how the Word of God renews a man!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Our Church has moved

Today, we finished moving into our new facility. We have a lot left to do, but we had our first service there this evening.

Interesting, right across the street from the entrance to our church is the sign:

I'm tempted to put up a sign with one word: "...not!"

See: Sola Scriptura


Miles from the Truth

Sunday, May 18, 2008

News Clip (in Russian) of Metropolitan Hilarion receiving the White Klobuk

Yesterday (fittingly on the anniversary of the signing of the act of canonical communion), Metropolitan Hilarion was given the white klobuk of a Metropolitan. Axios! Axios Axios!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

One year ago today

One year ago today, I was in Christ the Savior Cathedral, witnessing the reconciliation of the Russian Church.

What a blessing it was to be there, and what a blessing this event has been to our Church ever since.

To read all about it, click here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A President even more unpopular than Bush

After all... half the country went into rebellion because he was elected, and the other half were not very happy with him for most of the time we was president.

Another Aaron Copland classic.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Archbishop Hilarion elected Metropolitan

Many Years!

Russia Today has a video news clip on this.

In Russian, here is another video report:

Here is the official notice from the Synod web page:

NEW YORK: May 12, 2008
Archbishop Hilarion Is Elected First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

On May 12, 2008, at 12:00 noon, at the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign in New York, His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand was elected Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and shall be elevated to the rank of Metropolitan. In accordance with the Act of Canonical Communion signed on May 17, 2007, the Council of Bishops will send the Act of Election, drawn up by the Counting Committee, to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, with a request from the elected First Hierarch for his blessing to assume the duties placed upon him by his brother archpastors, and for confirmation by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate of his election.

The Enthronement of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, Primate-elect of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, will be held on Sunday, May 18, 2008.

The schedule of services relating to the Enthronement of the new First Hierarch is as follows:

May 17, all-night vigil at 6 pm. At the end of the evening service, the newly-elected Primate will emerge from the Royal Doors in a black klobuk [monastic headdress] and a simple episcopal mantle and will stand on the ambo facing the people. Two senior bishops will bring the light blue mantle and white klobuk to the Metropolitan, who will don them with the help of subdeacons. During the vesting of the mantle and klobuk, the senior bishop will intone "axios" ["he is worthy"], which will be repeated first by the bishops and clergymen, then by the choir. Afterwards, the Metropolitan will bless the clergy and people.

The light blue mantle and white klobuk will first be blessed with holy water by the senior archbishop during the reading of the first hour.

May 18, Divine Liturgy at 9:30 am. After the entry prayers are read and the customary blessing, two senior bishops will lead the new Metropolitan to the vesting platform and will declare "axios," which will be repeated first by the bishops and clergy, and then by the choir.

The newly-elected First Hierarch will then be vested in the middle of the church, while the other bishops are vested in the altar. Thereafter, two senior archimandrites or protopriests will bring out the mitre and will silently present it to the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

After the moleben, the senior hierarch will bestow the staff to the First Hierarch—a gift from the Diocese of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, which was blessed upon the relics of St Tikhon, Patriarch and Confessor of All Russia—and will declare:

"May the Almighty and Life-giving Trinity, Boundless Sovereignty and Indivisible Kingdom, grant to you this great throne of episcopacy, to be Metropolitan and Primate of the Russian Church Abroad, through the election by your brethren, the bishops of the Russian Church Abroad. And now, lord and brother, accept this pastoral staff, and ascend the throne of the episcopal seniority, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and beseech His Most-Pure Mother for all Orthodox Christianity and for the Russian people in the diaspora entrusted to you and save them as a good pastor will, and may the Lord God grant you health, well-being and many years."

The Archdeacon will then intone Many Years to the new First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The choir will sing Many Years.

In accordance to the Rite of Enthronement, the newly-elected Primate will address his brother archpastors with the following words:

"May the Almighty and All-Sovereign Right Hand of the All-Highest preserve and strengthen us all. May He grant peace and calm to His Holy Church and save our Fatherland from enemies visible and invisible, and grant strength to Orthodoxy. And to you, brother archpastors of the Russian Church Abroad, and to all Russians in the diaspora, and all Orthodoxy Christians, may He grant health and many years."

The choir then sings Many Years (without an intonation by the Archdeacon).

Russia Today on the Opening of the Synod of Bishops

This week the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia will elect a new head. Russia Today has a report on the opening day (Sunday, May 11th).