On September 1, 2020, is the feast of the Donskaya icon of the Mother of God; his Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia led the divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Donskoy monastery in Moscow, followed by the ordination of Archimandrite Pitirim (Dondenko) as Bishop of Jakarta, vicar of the diocese of Singapore. September 1 is also the Day of knowledge, new school year day. On this day, the Russian Orthodox Church performs prayers for teachers and students. Upon arrival at the Cathedral, his Holiness Patriarch Kirill bowed to the miraculous Donskaya icon of the Mother of God, which was brought to this monastery from The state Tretyakov gallery for this holiday. At the Liturgy among the concelebrating hierarchs were: Metropolitan of Singapore and South-East Asia Sergiy, the Patriarchal Exarch of South-East Asia; Metropolitan of Khanty-Mansiysk and Surgut Paul, managing the Philippine-Vietnamese diocese; Metropolitan Korsunsky Anthony, Patriarchal Exarch of Western Europe; Archbishop Theophan of Korea; Archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin), Secretary of the diocese of Thailand, rector of the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Bangkok and other hierarchs, clergy and monastics. The choir of the Donskoy monastery (Regent — P. V. Muntyan) performed the liturgical chants. The service was attended by: Chairman of Committee on development of civil society, public and religious associations of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Sergey Gavrilov; chargé d’affaires of the Republic of Indonesia in the Russian Federation Azis Nurvahudi; head of Department of national policy and interregional relations of the city of Moscow V. I. Suchkov; the head of the Donskoy district of Moscow D. I. Sokolov. Among those who prayed at the Liturgy was a group of seminarians from Indonesia and the Philippines who were studying at Moscow and St. Petersburg theological schools and who, with the blessing of the Patriarchal Exarch of Southeast Asia, Metropolitan Sergiy of Singapore and Southeast Asia, made pilgrimage trips to the churches and monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church during the holidays. The group is accompanied by an employee of the Department of external Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, D. I. Petrovsky. The Patriarchal Service was broadcast live on the Soyuz and Spas TV channels and on the official portal of the Russian Orthodox Church Патриархия.ru. For the convenience of the faithful, a large screen was installed on the Cathedral square of the Donskoy monastery, where the broadcast from the Cathedral was broadcast. The special litany included petitions for the beginning of the school year. At the special litany, prayer petitions were also made to get rid of the spread of coronavirus infection. After a special litany, his Holiness read a prayer for teachers and students: “O Lord, o God and our Creator, who hast honored us with Thy image, who hast taught us Thy chosen ones, as Thou hast revealed wisdom to those who listen to Thy teaching as a child; as Thou hast taught Solomon and all those who seek Thy wisdom, open the hearts, minds, and mouths of these Thy servants, so that Thou mayest enjoy the power of Thy law, and Thy will. Deliver them from every enemy, keep them in Orthodox faith, and in all piety and purity all the days of their life, so that they may succeed in understanding and in fulfilling Thy commandments; so that they may glorify Thy most Holy name, and be heirs of Thy Kingdom. Thou art the God mighty in mercy, and blessings of the fortress, and to Thee is all glory, honor and worship, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages, Amen.” The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church also offered up a prayer during the spread of the malicious plague that occurred. The sermon before communion was delivered by hieromonk Hermogenes (Burygin), Executive Secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Administrative Department. At the end of the Liturgy, his Holiness Patriarch Kirill addressed Bishop Pitirim of Jakarta to the service and presented him with the Bishop’s baton. The newly ordained Hierarch traditionally gave the faithful the first archpastoral blessing. Then his Holiness performed the rite of prayer singing at the beginning of the teaching of the youths. The Primate of the Russian Church read a prayer for the beginning of the new school year. His Holiness the Patriarch also performed a glorification and prayer before the Donskaya icon of the Mother of God and bowed to the miraculous image and venerable relics of Saint Tikhon, Patriarch of all Russia. On behalf of the inhabitants and parishioners of the Donskoy monastery, Bishop Eugene Bronnitsky congratulated his Holiness on the patronal feast of the monastery and presented his Holiness with a copy of the Donskaya icon of the Mother of God. The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church addressed the faithful with the Primate’s word. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill welcomed Bishop Eugene of Bronnitsky and presented him with a cross with the image of the Moscow saints in memory of the service.
Press service of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
Today, during his working visit to Moscow, Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi met with the Filippino students studying in the spiritual schools in Russia. The seminarians talked with His Eminence about their education and related issues.
August 19, 2020, after the Divine Liturgy on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, in the Throne hall of the Patriarchal chambers of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, his Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill met with a group of students of Moscow and St. Petersburg theological schools from Indonesia and the Philippines.
Students of religious schools prayed at the Patriarchal service in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The group was accompanied by the Secretary of the Patriarchal Exarchate of Southeast Asia, hieromonk Pitirim (Dondenko).
Seminarians, with the blessing of the Patriarchal Exarch of Southeast Asia, Metropolitan Sergius of Singapore and Southeast Asia, make pilgrimage trips to the temples and monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church during their holidays. For the past six months, they have been staying at the church of the Holy Trinity in Ostankino, Moscow.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill blessed the seminarians and presented them with memorable gifts.
“I bless you and wish you God’s help! We hope for you, because you will be Orthodox missionaries and, of course, the results of your work will determine how much the Orthodox faith will take root in the life of your people,” his Holiness said.
Press service of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
Orthodoxy (derived from Greek ὀρθοδοξία – correct teaching, correct faith and glorification of God) – the original traditional Christianity founded by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Palestine, was spread throughout the world by his closest disciples – the apostles, together with their successors.
This is the faith and the corresponding way of life of the Orthodox Church, which is understood as a community of independent (Autocephalous) local Churches united by Eucharistic communion.
The Orthodox people confess the true, Apostolic faith, embodied in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, expressed in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed (symbol of faith) and other decrees adopted by the seven Ecumenical councils and holy fathers.
The Foundation of the Orthodox Church is the God-man Jesus Christ, the redeeming feat of His earthly life, preaching, death on the Cross and Resurrection in the first third of the first century.
After the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, they dispersed to
preach the Gospel of Christ throughout the world. Until the end of the first
century they were able to spread Christianity in all the known countries of the
Ancient world, founding there many Christian communities.
After the death of the apostles, their work was continued by their
ordained bishops, who affirmed and spread the Christian faith in the lands
entrusted to them.
Gradually, the Church hierarchy and its organizational structure were formed, its most important administrative centers becoming Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea and other biggest cities of the Roman empire.
In I – IV centuries the Church suffered both from state persecution from the outside and from heresies and schisms inside itself. Both threatened its very existence. Christianity was condemned and outlawed. The defense of the Church was led by apologists, justifying and defending Christian doctrine and way of life from hostile attacks. Many Christians testified their loyalty to Christ by deeds of confession and martyrdom.
In the beginning of IV century the persecution ended with the victory of Christianity. At first, under Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337), it was equalized in rights with other religions and even gained a privileged position, being able to preach freely. Then, Emperor Theodosius I the Great (346-395) proclaimed Christianity the only state religion of the Roman Empire.
Time from IV to VIII century in Church history is called the period of the Ecumenical councils. The representatives of the entire Christian Church were gathering to clarify and protect the purity of the Orthodox creed from various heretical errors (arianism, nestorianism, monophysitism, monophelitism, iconoclasm) and establish a single canonical order, with the active support of the imperial authorities. Thus the faith in the Holy Trinity, the God-manhood of Christ, the dignity of the Virgin, icon worship, etc. were confirmed.
In IV century monasticism emerged and was flourishing, since then it becomes an essential part of Orthodoxy. The leading centers of monastic life were Egypt, Syria and Palestine. The founders of monasticism are considered to be the venerable Anthony the Great, Macarius of Egypt, Pachomius the Great, Hilarion the Great, James of Nisibia and others. The Monastic desire to embody the ascetic Evangelical ideal in earthly life resisted the worldliness of the Church, protected it from worldly temptations.
In V century pentarchy was formed – the United Ecumenical Church with five Patriarchates (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), with primacy honor given to the Roman pulpit.
In VII century the homeland of Christianity – Palestine together with the most ancient Christian lands (Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor) were captured by Muslim troops. De facto, only Constantinople Church remained independent on the East.
By the end of the first millennium, a number of socio-political, cultural and doctrinal differences between the Eastern and Western parts of the Christian Church took place. As a result, in 1054 the Roman Church fell away from unity with the Eastern (Byzantine) Church. This tragic event, called the Great schism of the Church, was much aggravated by the Crusades in 11-13 centuries and until now is an unhealed wound on the body of the Church.
The Russian Orthodox Church has more than a thousand years of history. According to tradition, the Holy Apostle Andrew the first-called, preached the Gospel in the future Russian lands. The spread of Christianity in Russia was facilitated by its proximity to such Christian countries as the Byzantine Empire and Bulgaria.
In the IX century western Slavonic countries were enlightened by the Holy equal-to-the-apostles brothers Cyril and Methodius-the enlighteners of the Slavs, the creators of the Slavonic alphabet and translators of Scripture and Worship texts into the Slavonic language.
In 860 AD, under the Patriarch of Constantinople St. Photius, the Kievan princes Askold and Dir were baptized. This first attempt to baptize Russia at the state level, unfortunately, ended with failure and pagan reaction.
In 954, Princess Olga of Kiev, the first Christian ruler of the Rurik
dynasty, was baptized.
In 988, her grandson, Prince Vladimir makes the final decision and performs the Baptism of Rus. The newly formed Russian Church becomes one of the metropolitans of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which it remained for five centuries. The Metropolitan of Kiev was appointed from the Greek, by the Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1051, the first Russian was placed on the primatial throne, Metropolitan Hilarion, the most educated man of his time, a remarkable Church writer.
Orthodoxy had a powerful influence on the development and flowering of Russian statehood, education, culture and spiritual life of the nation. Magnificent temples were erected, monasteries were founded, school education was developed, uniform legislation was created, literature and other arts flourished, social disproportions were softened.
The founders of monasticism in Russia are the venerable Anthony and Theodosius of Kiev, who initiated the famous Kiev-Pechersky Lavra. The outstanding writers of the Russian Church were Metropolitan Hilarion of Kiev, Reverend Nestor the Chronicler and others.
In the XII century the Russian Church was the only force that resisted feudal fragmentation, conflicts of princes and urged to preserve fraternal unity for the sake of the country and the people.
Russian Church was not much affected by the Tatar-Mongol invasion which put the Russian lands under the rule of the Golden Horde. The Church became the consoler for the people, its spiritual inspirer for the reconstruction of the political unity of Russia. Spiritually, materially and morally it contributed to the future victory over the enslavers.
Russian Primates were the spiritual leaders and assistants of the Moscow princes in the unification of the scattered Russian principalities around Moscow. Metropolitan Alexey (1354-1378) brought up the Holy Prince Dimitri Donskoy. He, as later Metropolitan Jonah (1448-1471), using the force of his authority helped Moscow Prince in ending the feudal turmoil and preserving the state unity. The great ascetic, the monk Sergius of Radonezh gave his blessing to Dimitri Donskoy for the greatest feat of arms – the battle of Kulikovo, which became the beginning of Russian liberation from the Mongol yoke.
Russian monasteries were the guards over the Orthodox faith, national identity and culture from negative Western influence. In XIV-XV centuries, around 180 new monasteries were founded in Russia. The main monastic centers were the Pochaev Lavra founded by the monk Job (now Western Ukraine) and the Trinity-Sergius Lavra founded by the monk Sergius of Radonezh on the East (near Moscow). In this prosperous monastery, the marvelous talent of the icon painter St. Andrei Rublev flourished.
In 1448 the Russian Church became independent from the Patriarchate of Constantinople (Byzantine empire was entirely conquered by the Turks in 1453). Metropolitan Jonah, appointed by the Council of Russian bishops, received the title of Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia.
In 1589 Metropolitan Job of Moscow became the first Russian Patriarch. The Eastern patriarchs recognized the Russian Patriarch as the fifth in honor. By that time the other four ruled their Churches in countries all occupied by the Muslims.
In the Troubled times of the early XVII century the Russian Church helped to overcome the trials befell on the state and the nation – the civil war and the Polish intervention. The ardent patriot Patriarch Ermogen (1606-1612) was the spiritual leader of the militia of Minin and Pozharsky. It is impossible not to recall the heroic defense of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra from the Polish-Lithuanian invaders in 1608-1610. It is significant that the first king of the new dynasty became the son of Patriarch Filaret (1619-1634) Mikhail Romanov.
As a result of Peter I reforms, the Patriarchal administration was abolished and the Church became governed by the Holy Governing Synod, a collegial Council consisting of the Church and the state representatives headed by the Tsar.
The Synodal period lasted nearly two hundred years. At that time, the Russian Church paid special attention to the development of spiritual education and missionary work on the outskirts of the country and beyond. Restoration of old and construction of new temples was conducted.
The XIX century was marked by the activity of remarkable theologians, Church historians, philologists, Orientalists. It gave great examples of Russian Holiness: outstanding saints Filaret Drozdov, Innokenty of Kherson, Ignatius Bryanchaninov, Theophan the Recluse, St. Seraphim of Sarov, old monks of Optina and Glinskaya monasteries.
In 1917, immediately after the February revolution, the all-Russian Church Council (1917-1918) was convened, the main act of which was the restoration of the Patriarchal administration of the Russian Church. Metropolitan Tikhon of Moscow was elected Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia (1917-1925) at this Council.
Under his leadership, the Church tried to heal the revolutionary turmoil, to calm the destructive passions and stop fratricidal strife. However, the Bolsheviks who came to power, professed atheism and looked at the Church as their enemy. Therefore, they launched against the Church the most terrible persecution in history. Their goal was the complete the destruction of the faith and the Church in the USSR. Bishops, priests, monks, laity were subjected to all kinds of repression: ridicules, mockeries, tortures, executions, imprisonments, camps and death penalty. Throughout the country, churches, monasteries, religious schools were closed; there was a company of mockery over the Orthodox faith and Church shrines.
By the beginning of the great Patriotic war, the organizational structure of the Russian Church was almost completely eliminated. Only a few bishops remained free in the country, only a few hundred temples were opened, and most of the surviving clergy were in camps.
The disastrous outbreak of war with Nazi Germany prompted the Soviet leadership to seek help from the Church. Churches were opened for worship, religious educational institutions, bishops and other clergy were released from the camps. During the war, the Russian Church has traditionally provided not only spiritual but also material support to the warring people defending their Fatherland.
A partial warming in the relations with the state took place but the Church was constantly under state control and restrictions of its activities.
The so-called “Khrushchev thaw” turned into new persecutions for the Church, when thousands of churches were forcibly closed throughout the Soviet Union.
At the local Council of 1971 there was a reconciliation with the old believers who broke away from the Church as a result of rejection of the reforms of Patriarch Nikon (1652-1666). The decline of the state-atheistic system was marked by the celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia in 1988. The Beginning of Perestroika gave a new impetus in Church-State relations. The dialogue between the authorities and the Church began on the basis of recognition of the huge historical role of Orthodoxy in the fate of the country, its invaluable contribution to the formation of morality and culture of the nation
The revival of the Russian Orthodox Church began, which is continuing till today. People reached out to Christ and His Holy Church. Archpastors, pastors, laymen began to work zealously to recreate the full-blooded Church life. Thousands of temples and hundreds of monasteries are being built and restored from the ruins. The education, enlightenment, charity, missionary work and public services of the Church are steadily expanding. At the same time, believers have to resist all sorts of attempts to shake, split the Church both from the outside and from within, to subordinate It to worldly interests.
His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II (1990-2008) led the Church revival in the difficult conditions of the collapse of the USSR. Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia (ROCOR), which was formed as a result of the revolutionary turmoil and the Russian emigration caused by it, reunited with the Russian Orthodox Church in 2007.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill is continuing the work of reviving the Russian Church. In 2019 the last part of Russian Orthodoxy abroad – the Archdiocese of Western European parishes of the Russian tradition – joined the Moscow Patriarchate.
The majority of Orthodox believers living in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus,
Moldova belong to the Russian Orthodox Church today. Orthodoxy also prevails in
the countries of the Balkan Peninsula (Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania,
Northern Macedonia, Montenegro), in Georgia and Cyprus.
In addition to these countries, the Orthodox live in other countries where other religions prevail. One such country is the Philippines.
Russian Orthodox Church in the Philippines
The first Russian priests visited the Philippines more than 150 years ago. In times of great research trips the Russian Empire did not remain aloof. And, of course, each expedition was accompanied by an Orthodox regimental priest. So, count E.V. Putyatin during the diplomatic mission to Japan on the frigate “Pallada” visited the Philippines on his way. This journey was documented in detail by Goncharov in the novel with the same name “Pallada”. From there we know that on this trip they were accompanied by the famous missionary and orientalist Archimandrite Abbakum (Chestnoy). In 1854, the “Pallada” arrived to Manila and, of course, on Sundays the Orthodox Liturgy was served there .
The next important milestone in the activity of the Orthodox Church in the Philippines was 1934, when on the basis of the request of the Russian Diaspora in Manila, the Bishop of China and Beijing Victor (Svyatin) founded a parish in Manila, in honor of the Iveron icon of the Mother of God. It existed until 1945 when it was destroyed during liberation of Manila from Japanese by American army.
Four years later, in 1949, after the Communists came to power in China, about 6 thousand Russian refugees left Shanghai. From all the countries in the world, only the Republic of the Philippines agreed to accept them for some time. The Russians were encamped on the small island of Tubabao. And the first arranged buildings were two churches: in honor of the Archangel Michael and in honor of Seraphim of Sarov. And the temple of the Mother of God was arranged of the former American marching church.
The spiritual leader of the refugees was St. John (Maksimovich) who arrived to the island together with the others. The Filipinos who saw him on the island of Tubabao are still alive. Also alive is the legend that while St. John was on the island, not a single typhoon reached it.
St. John (Maximovich) in the Philippines.
The Russians were going to stay on the island for 2 months only, but because of different problems they stayed for more than two years. St. John periodically traveled from the Philippines to other countries, primarily to the United States, to organize the immigration of refugees there. And it happened, in 1951 almost all Russian refugees left the Philippines.
The next Liturgy was served on Tubabao only 62 years later, in 2013, when the ROCOR clergy: priest Seraphim Bell and deacon Siluan Thompson, visited the Philippines. During preparation for this trip, the monk Philip Balingit with the help of Russia built a chapel in the same place where the Russian temple was located.
Unfortunately, this chapel as well as many other buildings on Tubabao was destroyed in 2013 by typhoon “Yolanda”, one of the mightiest in the history of observation. Priest Kirill Shkarbul who serves in the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Taiwan, flew to the island to help the victims.
At the same time, a large group of Aglipayan priests from the island of Mindanao (followers of the teachings of Gregory Aglipay, who broke away from the Roman Catholic Church more than 100 years ago) began to be interested in the history of Christianity and, as a consequence, Orthodoxy. Having learned that a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church was visiting the Philippines, the aglipay communities asked father Kirill to visit them with a lecture on Orthodoxy. Thus began the mission of the Russian Orthodox Church among Pilippino people. After the catechism, in 2015 a number of baptisms were performed in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, when thousands of people were joined to the Orthodox Church.
Of course, the Church authorities could not ignore the Orthodox communities in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. In October 2016, the Holy Synod appointed Bishop of Solnechnogorsk Sergiy Chashin, who was the head of the Administrative Secretariat of the Moscow Patriarchate, to manage parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea and the Republic of Korea. His Eminence began work with the renewal of the parish in honor of the Iveron icon of the Mother of God in Manila, on Easter in April 2017. The parish united Orthodox people of many nationalities, but Orthodox Filipinos interested in Russian culture became its backbone. In 2018, by the decision of the Holy Synod, the Patriarchal Exarchate of Southeast Asia was established, with 4 dioceses: Korean, Singaporean, Thai, Filipino-Vietnamese.
Next year, by the decision of the Holy Synod, his Eminence Pavel was entrusted to be the ruling Bishop of The Philippine-Vietnamese diocese with the title of Metropolitan of Manila and Hanoi. At the same time, several Filipino senior men of parishes were ordained to the priesthood.
Actually there are about 30 parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Philippines. Parishes exist in different parts of the country on the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Cebu and Leyte. These parishes are supported by 6 priests, among whom there are Filipinos, Russians, Americans. Services are held in Tagalog and Cebuano languages, the translations of the main liturgical texts have already been made.
Orthodox priests incessantly pray God for the living and the departed, visit the sick and weak people, sanctify their homes, fields, and transport of Filipinos.
Settlements of Orthodox communities are also being improved. With help from Russia, beautiful churches are being built there becoming the most attractive buildings in the surroundings.
Remembering the words of the Apostle James “faith without good actions is dead”, the Russian Orthodox Church organized a social service. In almost every parish, Orthodox volunteers regularly feed the starving Filipino children. Also, volunteers of the Orthodox Church travel to poor areas of the island holding talks and practical classes on the rules of hygiene and healthy eating. The Church also helps people who find themselves in a difficult life situations.
The Orthodox Church did not stand aside during natural disasters. During Typhoon Yolanda and during mighty earthquakes, priests and volunteers traveled to the destroyed areas, helping with water, food and even with the rebuilding ruined homes. So in the North of Cebu, more than 100 houses were built on the funds of the Church, for the victims of the Typhoon.
The Russian Orthodox Church gives Filipinos the opportunity to receive a qualitative education both in the Philippines at the training center in Davao city and in spiritual academies in Russia. The talented boys and girls from towns and villages are annually sent to St. Petersburg to get a high-grade education.
The Church also plays an important role as a mediator for strengthening friendship and cultural exchange between Russia and the Philippines. Russian priests, in cooperation with the administration of educational institutions and settlements, participate in folk festivals and conduct cultural lectures. Professional singers from Russia also regularly come to the Philippines, holding charity concerts and introducing the locals to the rich Russian culture.
The Church pays special attention to work with the youth. Unfortunately, it is no secret that young people due to the lack of worldly experience often find themselves in difficult situations associated with drugs, excessive alcohol consumption and crime. Therefore, it is especially important to educate them. In addition to lectures, the Orthodox Church regularly holds youth camps, where young people learn more about their culture, learn to get joy and pleasure from creative activities.
In conclusion, we can add that the Lord himself especially glorified the Orthodox icon of the Mother of God “Holy Virgin” icon connected with the last week before the Easter Day or “Perpetual health” in the Philippines. This icon was taken from the Orthodox monastery of Keras in Cyprus before the 15th century by a Venetian merchant. From the Chronicles we know that since 1499 it was already in the Church of St. Matthew in Rome. A copy of this icon was brought to the Philippines in 1906. At the moment, this icon is located in the temple of Baklaran, there is always a lot of praying people near it, masses are served every hour, even miracles are performed. The iconography itself contains Greek letters-titles, an angel in his hands holds an Orthodox eight-pointed cross, and the image of the iconography itself is very familiar to any Orthodox person.
The icon of the Mother of God “Perpetual health”, venerated in the Philippines (on the left), clearly visible Greek letters, which indicates the Greek origin of the icon, and “Holy Virgin of Passions” icon connected with the last week before the Easter Day, venerated in the Russian Orthodox Church (on the right)
So the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Philippines is lasting more than 150 years and there are no black pages in this history. According to Metropolitan Sergius of Singapore and Southeast Asia, the head of the Patriarchal Exarchate in Southeast Asia: “we welcome President Duterte’s call to expand the Russian Church presence in the Philippines, and we hope that we will be able to justify the high trust, and we believe that this will benefit the Philippine people … We pray that God will send peace and prosperity to the Philippine land”.
The fullness of the clergy and congregation of the Philippines-Vietnamese diocese brings you sincere congratulations on the occasion of your name Day! Please accept our wishes for good health, prosperity, peace, joy in the Lord and His all-merciful help in the feat of your high and responsible service. In these times of sorrow and trial, we all hear your incessant call to prayer for one another, your fatherly admonition to avoid despair and despondency. Your support, expressed in your primal prayer to the Father in Heaven, strengthens our spiritual efforts and helps everyone to bear their cross. May the Lord add you more spiritual and physical strength in this difficult hour.
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, justas 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.
“…Christ is a new Passover, a living Sacrifice,
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
(Chorus of the Easter Canon)
Beloved in the Risen Christ, honorable fathers,
dear brothers and sisters!
The many-merciful Lord, in his unspeakable love for humanity, has again vouchsafed us to reach the great and saving day of the Passover of Christ. From the fullness of my heart, filled with Paschal joy, I bring to each of you a life-giving, unquenchable apostolic greeting that shines through the ages:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
All the Holy Evangelists tell about the Resurrection of Christ. According to the Apostle Matthew’s Gospel, the angel of the Lord says to the myrrh-bearing women: fear not ye, for I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified; He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead; and, behold, He goeth before you into Galilee… And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail! (Mt 28: 5-7, 9).
On this named and Holy day, we perceive with a special feeling the truth about the crushing of the enmity that divides humanity by the Crucified and Risen Christ (Eph. 2, 14-16), and we listen to the heartfelt Catechism of John Chrysostom, in which the great Saint speaks of Easter as a source of reconciliation and a pledge of peace.
On this Holy and luminous Easter night, the heart of an Orthodox person rejoices, the Resurrection of Christ is the Foundation of our faith, for, according to the word of the Apostle Paul, if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain (1 Corinthians 15:14).
But Christ is Risen! And this is what we proclaim on this Holy and named day to all people and to all living beings on earth today: Christ is truly Risen!
“Truly celebrates the Resurrection the one who has risen from dead works, for deeds of virtue, for faith and Christian love,” –St. John of Kronstadt said.
Therefore, on the Holy Paschal days, celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, let us do works of charity, with a comforting word and compassionate love, to help the sick, the needy and the destitute.
The famous modern theologian and preacher Metropolitan Anthony of Surozh famously said this: “This is our calling: where it is dark, we must be light; where there is no faith – we must bring the assurance of faith; where there is no hope, we must shine with hope, when it would seem impossible to hope; where love is extinguished – we must be invincible love! We should be an example of what a real living person is, a person who is a living image of the Savior Christ, united with God inseparably and giving himself irrevocably to the service of other people!»
My dear brothers and sisters, let us succeed in fulfilling the precepts of the Orthodox faith, which is an abundant source of moral improvement, piety, love, diligence, and peace, guiding us to eternal salvation.
Our message today will once again be the words that I address to you in celebration of the feast, amazing in their power and exalted in their content and meaning:
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
Most Reverend brethren archpastors, venerable priests, deacons, and beloved brothers and sisters!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Beloved, I heartily congratulate all of you, on the great and luminous feast of the Holy Pascha!
Today we are spiritually experiencing an event that has the most important significance not only on the scale of world history, but also for the life of each of us. The only begotten Son of God became incarnate and shares our burdens of earthly being, teaches us heavenly truths and, having suffered torments, died on the Cross. For many millennia since the fall of the first people from the Creator, man experienced the tragedy of disunity, but no human effort was able to overcome this abyss of sin. Yet God Himself comes to earth and sacrifices Himself for the salvation of many.
When the myrrh-bearing women and the Saviour’s disciples came to the burial cave and did not find the body of the beloved Master, they first experienced loss and confusion. They did not dare to believe in the reality of the miracle that had happened – what happened seemed so incredible to them. But soon the darkness of doubt cleared, and embarrassment gave way to great joy and great gratitude to God. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said! (Matt. 28: 6) Where until recently their aspirations and hopes were buried, sprouts of warm, sincere faith sprang up and the beauty of sacrificing and the immeasurable depth of Divine love for people revealed. Death – the main and inexorable enemy of man – was finally defeated – it could not keep the Creator and the Source of Life captive!
This is the victory that overcomes the world — our faith (1 John 5: 4), – the Apostle John testifies. What are these unusual words about? They are about the power of the Gospel that surpasses all understanding. This unique power lies in two simple words of Paschal greeting. It is in them – the main content of our faith, a solid foundation of hope and an inexhaustible source of love. Through His glorious Resurrection, Christ opened the door to eternal life for us and granted true spiritual freedom: the freedom that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1).
Each person is infinitely precious in the eyes of the Lord. Testifying of this, the Saviour walked into the world and transfigured it with works of love and mercy; healed the sick, encouraged the mourners, extended a helping hand to the stumbled. So it is for us, if we want to be truly Christ’s, it is necessary to do the work of Christ, imitating Him in the sacrificial service to our neighbours, because only by works faith was made perfect (James 2: 22). The Lord, Who knows the full depth of human pain, is always with those who are in trouble. And we, by the commandment of the Saviour, are called to see Christ in every neighbour (Matthew 25: 40).
He who lives in the Spirit also has in himself the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5: 22-23). A vivid image of such an evangelical life was revealed by the great ascetic of the last century, St. John the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco. With an open and courageous heart, he came to the sick and helped those in need, prayed for the afflicted and sought to console those who mourn. Let the example of his struggle be a useful edification for all of us, especially during this difficult time, when the Lord has visited the nations with a dangerous disease.
Our Church life must be full of responsibility. Participation in the Holy Eucharist is the most important action of a Christian: when we partake of the Divine Body and Blood of the Saviour, we let the Lord into us – in Him our weakness becomes a real power that can transform the world. We only need to let Christ to act. But just like “from contact with the fire either ashes or steel is obtained, depending on what is touched. So too does it happen with a man, and everything depends on what he brings to the divine Fire – in what state he touches God. If he keeps himself like iron, the power of the iron becomes steel. If he lets himself go to the point of the weakness of chaff – he will burn up.” (St. John, Archbishop of Shanghai. God is a Consuming Fire).
May, through the prayers of St. John the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Shanghai, our faith which worketh by love (Gal. 5, 6), be strengthened like steel and become a lamp to the world, so that people, seeing our good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5 , 16).
Not in all circumstances we are able to openly testify of the Resurrected Saviour, but our everyday Christianity must always be visible, significant and active. Such a testimony, full of the spirit of love for neighbours and true joy in God, when we experience the reality of the Pascha miracle, sounds louder and more convincing than many beautiful and right words.
May the life-giving light of the Resurrection of Christ shine indefinitely in our hearts, illumine and comfort our near and distant. Congratulating all of you once again, beloved, on the great feast of Pascha, I wish you generous mercies from Saviour, Who has risen from the Tomb. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
TRULY CHRIST IS RISEN!
Metropolitan of Singapore and South East Asia,
Patriarchal Exarch of South East Asia
Your Graces the archpastors, venerable fathers, all-honourable monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
By the grace of the All-Generous God, we have been vouchsafed to come to the radiant Paschal night and once again rejoice in the glorious Resurrection of Christ. From the depths of my heart I greet all of you, my beloved, with this great holiday and “feast of feasts.”
Almost two thousand years separate us from the event we recall today. And yet, every year with unchanging spiritual awe the Church celebrates the Resurrection of the Lord, tirelessly bearing witness to the exceptional nature of what occurred in the burial chamber by the walls of ancient Jerusalem.
The whole earthly path of the Son of God – from His miraculous Incarnation to His Passion and terrible death on the cross – is the fulfillment of the Maker’s promise, once given to our forefathers. God promised to send into the world the One who “bears our infirmities and carries our diseases” (Is. 53:4) and who will “save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21). Many times the Lord affirmed this promise through His prophets. He remained true to this vow even when the chosen people rejected the covenant and violated the Creator’s will.
It is, then, in the Resurrection of Christ that God’s love is revealed in its fullness, for death has finally been vanquished – the last boundary separating the human person from the true Fount of life. And although death continues to exist in the physical sense and takes away our human bodies, it no longer has the power to destroy our souls, that is to say, to deny us life everlasting in communion with the Maker. Death has been defeated and its sting has been removed (cf. 1 Cor. 15:55). The Lord has made “captivity itself a captive” (Eph. 4:8) and cast down Hades. “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk. 1:37), for truly “he is risen, as he said” (Mt. 28:6)!
In the current year the peoples of the earth have been enduring extraordinary ordeals. A baneful epidemic has spread throughout the whole world and has come to our lands too. The authorities have introduced restrictions in order to avert a further rapid spread of the epidemic. In some countries of the Moscow Patriarchate’s pastoral responsibility public worship, including the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, has been suspended. However, we Orthodox Christians are not to be despondent or to despair in these difficult circumstances; even more so we should not surrender to panic. We are called upon to preserve our inner peace and recall the words of the Saviour spoken on the eve of his redemptive Passion: “In the world you face sorrow. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (Jn. 16:33).
Pascha has become for all of humanity the transition from enslavement to sin to the freedom of the kingdom of heaven, “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rm. 8:21). It is only thanks to the Saviour’s Resurrection that we obtain the true freedom of which the all-praised Apostle Paul speaks, calling upon us to “stand fast… in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us” (Gal 5.1). How many times have we read or heard these words? And now we have to think hard on whether we live today as though Christ’s Resurrection never happened. Are we not in danger of exchanging the riches of eternity for never-ending worldly concerns in once more being held captive to the vanity of this world, in surrendering to transient fears and forgetting the incorrupt spiritual treasures and true calling of the Christian to “serve the Lord in holiness and righteousness before him” (Lk. 1:75)?
And yet, “pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father” (Jm. 1:27) is this: to treat each other with love and patience, to help and support one another in tribulations, following the example of the Good Shepherd shown to us in the Gospel. No outward restrictions should ever tear apart our unity and take away from us the true spiritual freedom which we have obtained through coming to know our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Who has conquered death and granted to us the chance to “be called the children of God; for that is what we are” (1 Jn. 3:1).
All the faithful children of the Church are of “one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32), for apart we are but members, while together we are the Body of Christ and nothing in all creation “shall be able to separate us from the love of God” (Rm. 8:39). Therefore, let those who today are unable for objective reasons to come to church and pray know that they are in other people’s thoughts and prayers. Faith grants to us the strength to live and overcome with God’s help all sorts of infirmities and tribulations, including that which has become a part of our lives through the spread of the dangerous virus.
I ardently call upon all of you, my beloved, to strengthen your common prayer to the Lord so that we may, in spite of all hardships, remain partakers of the grace-filled liturgical life of the Church, so that the holy sacrament of Eucharist may be celebrated and the faithful may with boldness draw near to the Fount of Life which are the Holy Mysteries of Christ, and so that the sick may receive healing and the healthy be protected from the dangerous infection.
We believe that the Risen Saviour will never forsake us and that He will send down upon us the resolve and courage to stand steadfastly in faith and to make our salvific journey through our earthly life to life everlasting.
I wholeheartedly congratulate all of you, my beloved brothers and sisters, on the bright feast of the Holy Pascha and call upon you to always be the image of the Saviour’s true disciples in setting a good example to people around you and in proclaiming the mighty acts of the One “who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pt. 2:9), so that all the days of our life we may through our deeds testify to the unsurpassed power and truth of the Paschal greeting:
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