NATIVITY EPISTLE OF HIS EMINENCE VALENTINE, ARCHBISHOP OF SUZDAL AND VLADIMIR, TO THE GOD-PRESERVED FLOCK OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH.
Beloved in the Lord Archpastors and pastors, all-honoured monastics, God-beloved brothers and sisters, co-workers in prayer and struggle on field of Christ,
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
Led by the Bethlehem star, in our thoughts we pass through a journey of two thousand years to the shepherd’s crib where the God-Child Christ was born and lay, He Who voluntarily came down to earth so as to make believers rich in Him. The Son of God took on the form of a weak child so as to make those strong who follow after Him, and to raise them to heaven to God the Father, to be one with Him.
Christ is born, God is incarnate, the heavens rejoice, the earth makes glad, the magi with the shepherds bow down in worship, and over the whole world the loud and joyful greeting rings out: “Christ is born, glorify Him!”, and then the Angelic chant: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men!”, which until now echoes with its gracious echo in the hearts of Orthodox Christians as the Christmas greeting in all languages of the earth.
The birth of the God-Child Christ exceeds all human comprehension. After all, He was born Who for our sakes and for our salvation not only deigned to be incarnate, but, being sinless, accepted baptism like an ordinary man. He lived among men, was obedient to God the Father to the very death on the cross and on the third day arose, having trampled down death, ascended into heaven, and sat at the right hand of the Father. And according to the witness of the Gospel, He will shortly come to earth to judge the living and the dead, to give to each according to his works.
Beloved in the Lord Fathers, Brothers, Sisters and all-honoured Monastics!
Have we not come right up to that time when, according to the account of the holy apostle and evangelist Matthew, in accordance with the prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ, on the eve of His Second Coming great upheavals will take place: “Also you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not afraid: for this must all come to pass, but the end is not yet. For people will rise up against people, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be famines, and plagues, and earthquakes in various places. All this is the beginning of sorrows. Then they will give you up to tortures and will kill you; and you will be hated by all peoples for My name’s sake” (Matt. 24.6-9).
We are already living witnesses of all that is now taking place, that it is the beginning of sorrows. And therefore I earnestly beseech you, in the last days of our earthly existence, to be filled with alarm and cease to transgress the evangelical commandments and despise the God-pleasing life. It is necessary to return to the Orthodox teaching – to the faith of our fathers, without the sins of sergianism, the heresy of ecumenism, betrayal and other destructive sins.
On the day of the Great Feast of the Nativity of Christ our hearts are filled with joy and gladness, with love and truth, for the God-Child Christ is born. St. Ephraim the Syrian wrote in his works that Truth and Love are two wings which cannot be divided, for Truth cannot be without Love. Love cannot soar aloft without Truth; they are bound by the bonds of friendship.
If good will, Truth and Love reign among men, if the heart of man is directed to care for his neighbours, if people understand that the works of love and good works are that valuable treasure which will go with us into eternal life and will witness to our intention and desire to live eternally with God, that means that we stand on the right, evangelical path.
We shall pray that the peace of God hymned by the angels does not abandon our hearts, and that the good will of God may be accomplished on us, and that brotherly love in Christ Jesus may adorn not only our life, but also the life of those around us, both in this age and in the age to come. May our hearts not cease to glorify the God-Child Christ lying in the manger, and may our lips constantly raise what thanksgiving prayers we are capable of to the Lord God for the sorrows and for the joys – for everything that He has granted us for our salvation and for our cleansing from sin.
The 21st century, the third millennium of Christianity has begun. There is no man on earth who does not know about this. The 2000th anniversary of the Nativity of Christ is, as it were, a common festival for the whole earth. But what precisely are people celebrating, and how? What are they rejoicing about, what are they striving for, what are they worrying about, what thoughts attend their worries about today and tomorrow?
Let us together try and recall the evangelical account of the Nativity of the God-Child Christ. When Christ was born, the shepherds and magi came to worship Him. He was sought also by King Herod. Only the aim of his search was different. In sending the magi to find the Child who was born, the Messiah, Christ, the Saviour of the human race, Herod spoke to them as follows: “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also” (Matt. 2.8). In actual fact, Herod wanted, with the aid of those who were going to worship Christ, to destroy Him.
Thus we see that at the very Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ the spite of the enemy of the human race was trying on the sheep’s clothing of the righteous in order, in their guise, to enter the holy sheep-pen, into the holy of holies of the earthly Church that was being born.
Later, as we know, the whole history of humanity became a history of the struggle between Christ and His Church and those to whom it was not Truth that was dear, but dominion over people like themselves, power for the sake of power, that is, in the final analysis, Luciferian pride.
When the revolution prepared by the ardent enemies of Christ took place in 1917, the whole of Russian society was presented with the problem: on which side were they to be? Being on the side of Christ and His Church meant for those weak in faith physical destruction, and in the best case suffering for Christ. While departing from the Lord, from the Church, meant preserving oneself and prolonging one’s life for a moment.
In answer to this divided feeling the sincerely believing person received the following Gospel reply: “What use is it to a man if he wins the whole world but harms his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For he who is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8. 36-38). Unfortunately, a huge majority of our fathers and grandfathers chose the second alternative – to serve, not God, but mammon.
And as a result the Anointed of God, the holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II perished together with the uncounted host of the holy New Martyrs of Russia. This became an ominous sign of the apostasy of hierarchs and pastors and Russians from the Church of God that was to take place shortly thereafter. This was prophesied by St. Seraphim of Sarov and Righteous John of Kronstadt…
83 years have passed since Russia immersed herself in the darkness of atheism and lack of faith, and into the abyss of those unnumbered woes with which no upheavals of the pre-revolutionary period can compare.
People have changed, the country has changed. What have Russian people in the Homeland and abroad – those in the diaspora – learned in that time? What fruits of repentance for the apostasy from God of their fathers has the Russian people produced? What conclusions have been made and what steps have been undertaken by those to whom God entrusted His flock in the emigration?
With great sorrow we must today ascertain the fact that the Russian people has not carried out the main thing: it has continued, as before, to remain in the condition of darkened mind, when a man places material prosperity above the salvation of his soul, thinking that his everyday cares for his daily bread are his main and almost only occupation. Abusing the trust of the Russian people, the traitors of Christ have created in Russia a surrogate-church, in which externally everything is similar to Orthodoxy, but within there is impurity adapted to the service of the atheist regime.
Metropolitan Sergius and his followers thought up a doctrine concerning obligatory obedience – to the point of complete submission – to every power, even if it an openly atheist power. Created on this foundation, the Moscow Patriarchate in its half-century of activity has had a terrible influence on Russia.
The lie came to be not only tolerated, but an obligatory component of life, a guarantee of success, a factor in development. Sergianism, which reconciles Christ with Beliar and socialism with the Kingdom of God, has let down such deep roots that today almost the whole world is completely convinced that the Moscow Patriarchate with its hierarch-chekists is the Russian Church.
A colossal fake has been created, a fake that for the external observer is indistinguishable from the original. However, similar substitutions of a comparable significance do not pass without consequences for the whole of the rest of the world. We can definitely say that the coming century threatens to become an epoch of names. Gradually all that will remain will be the appearance, the name, but not the essence of the thing.
As a man takes an ordinary product from the shelf of a shop, he suddenly discovers that what is normal in it is only the name, while the content is a sheer fabrication, and rather harmful for his health. So is it in the spiritual sphere. In going towards the church of God, to his spiritual father and instructor, the Christian frequently falls into the hands of rogues and robbers. There are now innumerable sects, some of which have woven a nest for themselves right under the roof of the Moscow Patriarchate. Innumerable are the appealing voices of the preachers who supposedly preach the truth. And forgotten are the simple words of the Gospel: “Take care that nobody deceives you; for many will come in My name, and will say that it is I, and will deceive many… At that time, if someone says to you: ‘Here is Christ!’ or ‘There He is!’, do not believe him. For false christs and false prophets will arise and will produce signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13.5-6, 21-22).
It is not only Russia that has been stricken by misfortune: many of those who throughout all the years of the triumph of atheism in the Homeland were witnesses to the Truth in exile, have lost acuteness of spiritual vision. Now we are witnesses of a schism unprecedented in its size in the Russian Church Abroad, when a large part of it is striving for union with that same colossal fake which calls itself “the Mother Church” – the Moscow Patriarchate.
I remember the year 1956, the Dormition men’s monastery in Odessa, where I was an unwilling witness as there returned from the camps and prisons, having served their terms, those hierarchs who returned to Russia after the war so as to unite with the “Mother Church” at the call of Stalin’s government and the Moscow patriarchate: “the Homeland has forgiven you, the Homeland calls you!” In 1946 they trustingly entered the USSR, and were all immediately caught and incarcerated for 10 years, while the “Mother Church” was silent, not raising her voice in defence of those whom she had beckoned into the trap.
In order to be “re-established” in their hierarchical rank, they had to accept and chant hymns to Sergianism, and accept the Soviet patriarch. And what then? Some of them ended their lives under house arrest, others in monastery prisons, while others soon departed for eternity.
As proof, I shall quote documents which will perhaps cool the ardour of those rushing into the Moscow patriarchate from the ROCA, and bring them to true reason.
On August 11, 1946, Metropolitan Seraphim, Exarch of the Patriarch of Moscow made the following appeal in his epistle: “… To our profound sorrow, we Russians, living in various countries of the world, are still divided, scattered, split up among various jurisdictions and Churches. Our Russian spiritual flock still wanders in various ecclesiastical courtyards, still searches for something, vacillates, worries, finds no rest, peace and quiet haven in itself. Hence our Russian torments and sufferings. But it is time to stop these disputes. It is time to put an end to the searching for various spiritual leaders in accordance with one’s personal and sinful tastes and moods. It is time for everyone to enter into one spiritual courtyard – the bosom of our Mother Russian Church. Why despise our Mother, who is our native, great and glorious Church, who radiates her faith, exploits and prayers throughout the world…
“Now the great historical process of the gathering of the Russian flock, which was scattered by the will of God’s judgements throughout the world, is being accomplished. And we all – Bishops, pastors and laypeople - must take the most lively and active part in this saving work. We must work and labour in the work of ecclesiastical unification, and not stand by, not be passive observers of events, and still more not resist this holy work, remembering that the Lord will call us to account for the sins of division and schism at His Terrible Judgement.”
Archbishop Nestor (Anisimov), on his return to the Homeland, wrote: “Our beloved Homeland! We kiss your robe, our native land, and we bless you with our prayer. Our Most Holy Father and Patriarch Alexis, the great people’s Pastor, Intercessor for his flock and participant with her in her sorrows and deprivations…”
Archbishop John of Molotov wrote: “… A great consolation has appeared: it has become possible in a local Russian church to commemorate in divine service the name of our native First Hierarch, his Holiness Patriarch Alexis of Moscow and All Russia…”
Archbishop Daniel of Pinsk: “… From my first steps after my prolonged separation, She (the Homeland) has gladdened me by her just attitude to the Orthodox Church, to her servers and believers, by her peaceful trust and goodwill. The unbeliever and the member of the Orthodox Church are citizens with equal rights…”
One could write much about Archbishop Juvenal of Izhevsk, Archbishop Victor of Krasnodar and many, many Archpastors and pastors who returned to the Homeland in 1946 from abroad and who were condemned according to article 58-10 to ten years…
Is this situation not repeating itself now? Will something similar not happen to the Archpastors of the Church Abroad? You know, similar words in justification of union with the Moscow Patriarchate are being spoken. Will not those who wish to unite with the Patriarchate and are thinking of strengthening their position in this world, ponder over the sad end of those who went along this road?
Moved by the love of Christ, we address the Archpastors, pastors, honourable monastics and believers of the Church Abroad. Beloved fellow bishops of the Church of Christ! Stop before the yawning abyss – the Moscow patriarchate, before it swallows you up, as it swallowed up your predecessors in 1946. Bring forth repentance before God for your thoughtless attempt to unite with the MP. Repent before your First hierarch, whom you are intending to send into retirement. Ask forgiveness before your flock, which believed you and which you now want to destroy. Think that you are carrying out a most serious sin before God, the Holy Church and before history. You are uniting yourselves to those who deny any responsibility for what has been done in the past century, who are alien to repentance.
This repentance, though expected by many, has not been produced by the Moscow Patriarchate, which for more than seventy years has stubbornly persisted in the heresy of sergianism and for forty years in the heresy of ecumenism. It did not repent even at its fateful, as it calls it Jubilee Council, which was consecrated to the 2000th anniversary of the Nativity of Christ, but rather took refuge in cunning verbal tricks.
In its recent Epistle the hierarchs of the Church Abroad affirm that the document on “The Foundations of the Social Conception of the Russian Orthodox Church” passed at the Hierarchical Council of the MP has blotted out sergianism. But has it? They have in mind the following passage from the “Social doctrine”:
“If the authorities force Orthodox believers to apostasise from Christ and His Church, and also to commit sinful acts harmful to the soul, the Church must refuse to obey the State.”
But will not the Lord say: “Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant” (Luke 19.22)?
If it had to refuse obedience when that was demanded, why did it not do so? And if it did not, why has it not now offered repentance for not carrying out its duty? Or does it “have” to only now, when it is not dangerous to talk about it, while under the Bolsheviks it did not have to? Is the Church one thing today and something else tomorrow? The Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and to the ages.
How can those who followed in the steps of the traitor Metropolitan Sergius, the friend of the revolutionaries, be counted in the host of the saints with the holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II? How can there come together in the host of the saints both the persecuted and those who persecuted them and did not repent of it, some of whom ended their lives in peace in the sergianist church? Can the Holy New Martyrs from the heights of heaven give their consent to being once again unceremoniously mixed in with those from they decisively separated during their earthly lives?
“I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting; it is difficult for you to kick against the goads”, said the Lord Jesus Christ to the future Apostle Paul (Acts 9.5).
Is it not enough that you were present at the slaughter of the Russian Church? Is it not time for you to stop on the road to Damascus – to the Moscow Patriarchate – and recognise that you are going there with it to persecute and torment Orthodox Christians. Is it not time to recover your sight?
We address this question not only to the Church Abroad, but also to those priests and laity of the Moscow patriarchate who, like Saul, sincerely “think they are doing service to God”. We also address those who have the spark of piety in their hearts, but are wavering.
If the clergy and believers of the Moscow patriarchate cannot themselves bring forth repentance, we pray for them, that the Lord may forgive the deceived part of the Russian Church, so that there may come in worship to the crib of the God-Child true Christians, and not those who, like Herod, are seeking to kill the Child, or to give the secret to His enemies precipitously.
We address the servers of the Moscow patriarchate and earnestly beseech them in these holy days finally to bring repentance instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the God-Child Christ. Bring repentance before God, before the flock that trusted you, and before your conscience, that unbribable judge, which is probably burning you day and night with its unquenchable flame. Bring repentance and ask forgiveness for having served, not God, but mammon, not the interests of the Church, but the interests of the atheists and your own enrichment, using the labours of those sheep of yours who have truly not spared any effort to re-establish the defiled holy places.
Ask forgiveness for the fact that you have broken unity with the triumphant heavenly Church, since you have deviated from the right teaching left by Her, and have thereby destroyed the unity of the militant Church on earth. Being called to freedom in Christ, renounce servile sergianism and friendship with the enemies of the Church of God. Leave your business and devote all your strength to the regeneration of Orthodoxy, Russia and her glorious, but wretched and suffering people.
We call on you to fulfil the commandment of Christ and give all your wealth to the poor and needy people, and then you will have treasure in heaven.
Bring repentance to the Lord God and your flock for the fact that, having renounced the names given you in baptism or monastic tonsure, you have taken pseudonyms in fulfilment of the will of the atheists, serving them, not for the edification of the Church of God, but for Her annihilation.
Do not return to Herod, but depart by another path to your land, so that the God-Child Christ may meet you, not as seeking the life of the Child, but as faithful children of His Holy Church.
Beloved in the Lord fathers, brothers and sisters,
Children of the Russian [Rossijskoj] Orthodox Church!
From all my heart I congratulate you on the glorious and greatly triumphant Feast of the Nativity of Christ, the New Year and Theophany. I wish that you remain faithful children of the Church of God, not deviating from the service of the truth, but fulfilling the commandments of Christ for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those close to you. I pray that you may be confessors of the faith of Christ not only in words, but also in your personal life, as an example to others. I wish from all my loving heart that you may constantly perfect yourselves in prayer and good works, and be co-workers in the salvation of those close to you, without a feeling of superiority over them and without servility before those who are more perfect than us.
Let us raise our fervent prayers to the God-Child Christ, that, in accordance with His goodness and mercy, He may confirm us in the right faith, and strengthen the Church of God, which is militant on earth and triumphant in Heaven. Amen.
With much love,
Asking for your holy prayers,
Archbishop Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir.
The Nativity of Christ, 2000/2001.