The Day of All the Saints of the Russian Land

Of the limitless richness of Christ's personality, each nation has selected those features of holiness that are closest to its heart, that are most readily understood, that are, for that particular nation most attainable. Today, of all those marvelous forms of holiness, all that wealth of earthly and heavenly possibilities, we celebrate the memory of all the saints who were glorified in the Russian land. With these persons we have a sense of kinship, whose lives were intertwined with the most fateful events of our history, persons who are the glory of our country, the rich and beautiful fruits of Christ's saving, as they are described in the troparion of their feast.

In this host of Russian saints we can distinguish the three special characteristics of Russian holiness: patience, humility, and love. These qualities are not absent from other peoples, but these characteristics belong especially to our cherished saints in our own native land.

The first is the limitless patience of Our lord. The Holy Apostle Peter says that God is not slow to judge, He is patient; He waits because He loves, and love puts its trust and hope in everything, expects everything, and never ceases. Christ's patient, endlessly enduring love, for which He paid so dearly, involves the willingness to continue to endure, the horror, the senseless, fearful spectacles of this world, until such time as God's will is done. This patience of Our Lord finds its expression in our saints, not only in the amazing endurance of their struggle for spiritual progress, but also in such openness of the heart that never despairs of the fate of the sinner, that receives everyone, that readily take upon itself the consequences of this forbearing love, struggling for spiritual progress, and accepting the struggle to bring salvation to him who needs it.

The second quality of Christ's personality that impressed itself on the Russian people was His humility. All pagan peoples sought in their gods the qualities they wished to possess themselves, as individuals and as a people. They sought glory, power, authority, might, goodness, and justice. And even when these ancient gods died for their people, they died heroically and rose immediately again in all their glory.

The manifestation of God in Christ was different. It could not have been invented by any person, because no one could have conceived God as humiliated, vanquished, mocked, despised, and nailed to the cross, derided . . . God could appear like that only by His own accord. Man could never invent such a God, certainly not if one considers the words of that very God, telling us that He sets an example for us to follow, that we must be as He is.

The image of Christ humiliated, the image of God defeated, God vanquished, God Who is so great that He could endure the vilest mockery with all the glory and greatness of His humility--This image of God that the Russian people came to love, cherishes, and manifest even now.

And the third characteristic of God's love that is common to all Russian saints is that this holiness coincided with the manifestation and expression of love, throughout the course of Russian history,

Holiness took various form in our country. There were hermits and monks living in cities; there were princes and bishops; there were laymen and those who struggled for spiritual progress in

so many other ways. And we must not forget the fools-in-Christ. None of the saints, however, appeared by accident. They appeared at those particular moments in Russian history that called for spiritual struggle, a form through which such holy people could more clearly bear witness of their love for God and their love for fellow men. One joy of our tragic and frequently dark and frightening history that--throughout--like a red thread, like a gold vein, ran this current of Divine law. And wherever sin multiplied, there grace abounded; where man's cruelty waxed, there the saint proclaimed again and again his witness to God's love, kindled in the hearts of men, the witness of God's pity and of man's pity.

Our Russian saints are close to us; we have a sense of kinship to them. But if we pause to ask, can we say that these qualities truly represent our aspirations, the desires of our souls thirsting

for life eternal? Do we not seek security rather than vulnerability, power rather than defeat, glory rather than humiliation? Can we identify our lives in detail most basic patterns with the love made incarnate in man? Can we find in ourselves that endless patience that nothing can destroy, that humble love towards our neighbor, that self-abnegation, that ability to turn no one away but, following the word of Christ, to give our blessing to all, to let our light shine upon the good and the wicked, to bear witness to that love of which the Apostle Paul spoke?

If we cannot, then we stand outside the stream of Russian holiness. We follow not the path of Christ as this path was made part of the Russian soul in Russian history. We are an incomplete fragment of the Russia whole. What a frightening, what a pitiful thought! And if we want all the strings of our souls to sing, if we went all that can live and sing come to life and burst out singing the hymn of Our Lord, albeit in a foreign land, then we must remake ourselves with these qualities of Russian holiness, of the holy Russia. Then we shall be at one with those who struggled for spiritual progress, who are preparing the salvation of the Russian land by shedding their blood and sharing their undying love. Amen.

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
June, 1985

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