… let’s greet our Good Samaritans from the Department of Charity and Social Ministry of our diocese, who never tire of helping all those in need in these difficult times. May the giving hands never be empty as charity covers all sins (see Matthew 25: 34-40)
In the middle of the journey from Easter to Pentecost, we begin to prepare for the feast of the descent of the Holy Spirit into the world. The visible symbol of His life-giving grace is water, the basis of organic life. Christ Himself compared It to living water that quenches thirst forever. Therefore, on this day, water is blessed in Orthodox churches, and the gospel stories of the 4th and 5th weeks after Easter are associated with water sources.
Inspiring news from our diocese: Vietnam is the first after China to declare victory over Covid19. The country has lifted the quarantine. On Sunday, May 10, after a 2-month break, the Divine Liturgy was held again in the parish of the Intercession of the most Holy Theotokos in Ho Chi Minh city. Priest Eugeny congratulated the worshippers on the past holidays, namely, the day of the myrrh-bearing women and St. George, giving flowers to the female half of the parish, and pineapples to the male half. 16 people prayed at the Liturgy, all participating in the Sacrament of Communion.
75 years have passed since the end of the greatest tragedy of mankind. Thanksgiving prayers and memorial services for 70 million of its victims are held in all parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church. In Ho Chi Minh City, Consul General of the Russian Federation A.V. Popov laid flowers at the memorial to Russian sailors at Laithieu cemetery.
This year, like reports from the front, we receive news of the Covid19 offensive. Famous people are hit daily, especially many of them among the priests and monks. We fervently ask the Lord to stop the epidemic and for the repose of its victims.
With the blessing of the Patriarchal Exarch of South-East Asia Metropolitan Sergiy the poorest residents of Davao city (Mindanao island) received charitable assistance. Volunteers distributed food packages to the poor and disabled in the city’s slums.
Under the conditions of quarantine, many Filipinos found themselves without a source of income, because they do not have savings, and assistance from local authorities is not always sufficient, and sometimes even does not reach the recipients. The center for social service of the diocese will continue to help those in need in the context of the pandemic.
Russia has experienced many wars, but two are called Patriotic. And if the war of 1812 ended on Christmas day, the Great Patriotic war was to end on Easter, so that the two great national triumphs coincided with the two main Orthodox holidays, reminding us of the main Victory of Christianity – the victory over death. The fact that in 1945 Easter fell on the day of St. George (this happens 1-2 times a century) is also not a simple coincidence. St. George is the patron of Russia, Moscow, the Russian army and personally – Marshal of Victory Georgy Zhukov. Although his name in Greek means “farmer”, the Saint in his youth chose a heroic profession-to protect the Homeland. Having performed many feats of arms, St. George was called Trophy-bearer (Victorious) during his lifetime. But he performed his main feat for Christ’s sake, refusing to participate in the persecution of Christians. Instead of a brilliant career, he chose death in terrible sufferings (new style – May 6, 303). Since then, his name has been a symbol of spiritual victory, but Orthodox soldiers consider him their patron. He is also venerated in European countries, and in the Caucasus, where the whole country bears his name (according to tradition, the enlightener of Georgia equal-to-the-apostles Nina was a relative of the great Martyr).
Liturgies and molebens to St. George were served in our parishes
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Christ is Risen!
By God’s mercy, we have already reached the 3-rd Sunday of the Paschal feast that the Church has wisely dedicated to the memory of the feat performed by the myrrh-bearing women.
The myrrh-bearing women and the apostles are a kind of two ways of the faith. Resolute and ardent Peter, who is ready to follow the Saviour even to death, before his enlightenment by the Holy Spirit, turned out to be not so courageous and firm in the faith when a real danger to his life arose. And other disciples, too, afraid of their congeners, left the Lord at the most critical moment.
But the meek women who accompanied Christ in His earthly journeys stood silently at the Cross sharing in their hearts the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. They did not try to prove anything to anybody, nor did they demand for themselves the honour of sitting on the right or left hand of the Saviour in His Kingdom. They simply served Christ with meekness, patience and profound humbleness. And it might by for this reason that He vouchsafed them the honour to become apostles for the apostles themselves, to bring the good news to the Saviour’s closest disciples. A dangerous illness has befallen our people. It has already taken many lives, among them those of clergy of our Church. Dozens of thousands of people are suffering in hospitals. Even more people have to state at home in self-isolation, to endure restrictions in communications with their relatives and friends and sometime even to face an acute material need.
My dear ones, I am well aware of how hard it is for you today. I am commiserating with all of you. Believe me, you are not alone, the Patriarch is with you. All my thoughts and prayers are for you. Every day I pray to God for His mercy, that this ordeal may go past our people as soon as possible and that we may again unite with you in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist praising the Lord with one mouth and one heart.
From the very beginning of this situation it was clear to me that we have come to face a dangerous and insidious disease. The clergy and our elderly parishioners were to find themselves in the high-risk zone. And in the recent days, we have already lost several respected clergy and many faithful of the Church. As the Primate, I have always been aware of my responsibility for the clergy and the people.
It was with great grief that I had to make the decision to appeal to you not to come to church for a while. Without exaggeration it was the most difficult words in my life. I have never had to say anything like this. But it is the burden of responsibility that the Primate of a Church bears by assuming not only the honors of the patriarchal rank but also the entire mental anguish of the episcopate, clergy and flock. And I feel this pain in my heart every time when I think that millions of Orthodox people are thirsting for the Holy Mysteries of Christ but cannot cross the threshold of their dear church, when I think about the clergy who celebrate behind the closed doors and are deprived of material support today.
However, just as faith without love brings no benefit to a person, so Christian compassion should have visible fruits. And for this reason I have turned to well-off people who are benevolent to the Church with a humble appeal to give material support to our clergy. And thank the Lord, my entreaties have been heard. Of course, it may not change the situation radically but every one of us should do all that is possible to help our neighbor. I am sincerely grateful to those who, despite all the economic complexities that our country and the whole world are going through, have shown the truly Christian willingness to share what they have for the sake of the neighbors. May the All-Generous Lord reward you for you good deeds.
In spite of the fact that I, just as many of you, have to stay in a closed space, I keep receiving testimonies about dramatic cases taking place in various cities and villages because of the spread of the pernicious infection. And I try as much as I can to correct the efforts of our volunteers in their really selfless service. And to all the volunteers headed by Bishop Panteleimon, with whom I keep in contact every day and from whom I receive the necessary information, I express special gratitude, for it is directly to you that the words of Christ the Saviour may be applied: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me Mt. 25:35-36).
I would like to express special appreciation to doctors as well. Medical workers today are in the front line of the struggle with the disease, showing true heroism and faithfulness to their vocation. All this evokes the most sincere admiration.
Despite the complexity of the situation, we in all circumstances are called to preserve mental peace, calm and good sense, not to burn with indignation and hate, nor to engage ourselves in an endless search for enemies and, the less so, God forbid, to damn anybody, which in itself is unthinkable for a Christian. We remember what the Saviour said to us: By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (Jn.13:35).
God will not abandon His Church and His faithful servants. I only ask you: do not despair, do not loose heart, I pray for you all and mutually expect your ardent prayers for me as your Patriarch.
By the mercy of Risen Christ and His omnipotence we will defeat this assault, too, for with God all things are possible (Mt. 19:26), if only we could be staunch in our present trials and faithful in our trust in the Lord just as the myrrh-bearing women believed in Him with patience and meekness, just as the secret disciples Joseph and Nicodemus stayed with Him. I appeal to you with the words of Holy Scriptures: Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong (1 Cor. 16:13) and the Lord will preserve us by His grace. Amen.
+ KIRILL, PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA
The feast of myrrh-bearing women is the day of all female Christ’s disciples who follow the Savior since His earthly life. Women served the Lord those days and did not leave Him even after His death; today they carry their heavy Cross with firm faith in the Risen Christ.
In the gospel, there is little information about their feat and life. It was really a ministry, since they constantly accompanied Christ, worked for the Apostolic community and donated their funds. Mary Magdalene, Salome, Martha and Mary, Susanna, Joanna, Cleopa’s Mary and others came to the Holy Sepulchre on the third day after His death and brought with them the precious myrrh to show their love to the Lord for the last time. The myrrh-bearers were not afraid of being arrested. They were afraid of not having a proper burial, and hoped to see the Saviour for the last time. This day is dedicated to such boundless Christian love of sisters, wives, and mothers, whose daily work and care make a basement of our Church.
May 2 is the day of memory of the people’s favorite Saint blessed Matrona of Moscow (Nikonova). Mother Matronushka, as the faithful affectionately call her, is prayed for in illnesses, life’s troubles, when it does not get along with work, school, housing, and under persecution. The fame of Mother Matrona has long crossed the borders of Moscow, and indeed of all Russia. Thousands and thousands come to the capital to visit the relics of the Saint, in search of help and intercession and many receive her assistance! The Shrine with her relics is in the Pokrovsky monastery.
Stories about miracles that occurred through the Saint’s prayer have long been published in separate books. Matronushka was born in 1885 in Tula province, and passed to the Lord on May 2, 1952 in Moscow.
A poor peasant family, the Nikonovs were already growing 3 children, and the mother, afraid that she would not be able to feed one more child, decided to give it to an orphanage after birth – there was no question of killing the child in the womb. But shortly before giving birth, she dreamed of her unborn daughter in the form of a wonderful white bird – with a human face and closed eyes. The bird landed on the woman’s right hand. God-fearing Natalia regarded the dream as a sign and gave up the idea of shelter. The girl was born blind, and the child had no eyes at all, the eye sockets were closed with tightly closed eyelids – like a white bird that the mother saw in a dream. Soon it was discovered that the blind girl was given a “spiritual” vision, linked with the gift of foresight, miracle-working and healing.
From an early age, Matrona was rarely seen playing in the courtyard with other children, but she often visited the temple and spent almost all her time in prayer, at the icons. Children had violent games: they whipped the blind girl with nettles, knowing that she would not respond to the offender. Or they put her in a hole and laughed as she tried to get out of it. The helpless child was bullied because she behaved strangely: she said things incomprehensible, such as are not expected from a child. However, the neighbors soon noticed that the blind, helpless girl is not only surprisingly astute, but also has the gift of foresight. Moreover, Matrona predicted not only events from the life of her native village, or nearby villages, but in an allegorical form, she prophesied about the fate of the Royal family, the whole of Russia. Unfortunately, all these prophecies were fulfilled.
Having heard about the girl’s foresight, they reached out to the Nikonov house for advice and help, so Matrona turned from a burden into the main breadwinner of the family. At the same time, the blind girl discovered the gift of healing.
When Matronushka was seventeen years old, the girl suffered a misfortune – her legs got paralyzed, and for the rest of her days, the blessed one remained sedentary and completely dependent on others. In 1925, Matronushka moved to Moscow. The fact is that Matrona’s older brothers, who joined the Communist party, were afraid that the presence of the blessed one in their house, to whom people flocked all day long, would cause reprisals from the authorities. Feeling sorry for the old people-parents and brothers, Matrona leaves her native home. Matronushka begins a long period of homelessness. She never had a corner of her own in the capital – she wandered around relatives, acquaintances, some poor houses and basements.
An eyewitness of her life once found this picture: Matronushka was lying with her face to the wall and could not turn around – during the night her hair froze to the wall. Without a residence permit, Matrona many times, literally by miracle, avoided arrest, moving out of other people’s apartments shortly before police came for her.
They told how once a policeman came for Matronushka, and she said to him: “Run home quickly, I, blind and not walking, will not get away from you, and you have trouble at home! Run, or you won’t have time!” The policeman obeyed, ran home, and there his wife was burned by kerogaz: barely managed to get to the hospital. When the policeman was asked the next day why he did not arrest the blind woman, he replied that he would not follow her – “because if it were not for this blind woman, I would have been left without a wife.”
In Moscow of that period there were many unhappy, lost, and sick people. Having heard about the blessed one, many went to her for help, and received it. Matronushka received up to forty people a day. During the war, she was approached not only for healing, but also by those who wanted to learn about the fate of their loved ones. Completely illiterate, she seemed to know everything.
Outwardly, the Matrona’s life was monotonous, devoid of the pathos of the feat – she received people during the day, and prayed at night. Like many ascetics, the blessed one never really went to sleep – more often she just dozed, lying on her side, on her fist. With tiny, as if children’s hands and feet, sitting on a bed or chest, with a kind, bright face and a gentle voice-this Matronushka was remembered by people. She herself was in great pain, and seemed to know neither fatigue nor annoyance. It is easy to love when you are doing well, and you are ready to share your joy with both near and far. But how difficult it is not even to love, but just to tolerate others if something in your life does not add up or you are ill. One can only guess what it cost Matronushka to receive the sick and suffering from day to day, and not just to accept, but to listen and give advice. Matronushka could embrace those who came to her with such love that this alone healed them. In other words, there was so much love in her that, as a sufferer herself, she found the strength to pity others.
How can you learn to love like that?
Once, in a conversation with the blessed one, someone, justifying his intemperance, said: “Mother, it’s all nerves.” “What nerves: in war and in prison there are no nerves… You must control yourself, endure.” Or even for our edification: “If the old, the sick, or those who are out of their minds will say something unpleasant or offensive to you, then do not listen to them, do not get annoyed, but just help them.”