Orthodoxy: From Jerusalem to Manila

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.

The descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.

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.

Emperor Constantine the Great.

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.

The Holy Apostle Andrew the first-called sets up the Cross in Kiev land.

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.

The Baptism of Rus in the X century.

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.

The monk Sergius of Radonezh giving his blessing to Dimitri Donskoy for the greatest feat of arms – the battle of Kulikovo

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.

Tsar 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.

The all-Russian Church Council (1917-1918).

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.

Explosion of the temple (1930-ies).

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 Millennium of the Baptism of Russia in 1988.

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.

Signing of the Act on Canonical Communication between the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia (May 17, 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.

Restoring the unity of the Archdiocese of Western European parishes of Russian tradition with the Russian Orthodox Church (November 3, 2019) .

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.

Article in magazine about first russian church in Philippines (1930s)

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.

“Holy Mother of God” Cathedral on Tubabao island. The period from 1949 to 1951.

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.

Priest Seraphim Bell with the Orthodox community.

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.

Mass baptisms in the Philippines.
 

In 2018 by decision of the Holy Synod, the Patriarchal Exarchate of Southeast Asia was established with 4 dioceses: Korean, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines-Vietnam.

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.

Ordination of Roman Buniel, headman of a parish on Mindanao.

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.


Pastoral visit of the Bishop to the village Kinabalu, Sarangani province, island of Mindanao.

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.

The Church of St. Helena in Little Baguio, Cotabato, on the island of Mindanao.
The construction of the temple in the village Makalangot, Cotabato, on the island of Mindanao.

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.

Charity feeding of children on the island of Luzon.
Teaching the basics of hygiene and the fight against lice on the island of Luzon.

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.

Help for victims of the earthquake in the province of Malungon, Cotabato.

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.

Getting educational literature in the training center of Davao.

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.


Participation of Orthodox singers from Russia at the Barangay day in Arakan, Cotabato.

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.

Lecture at the Technical College of Davao.
3rd Orthodox youth camp.

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”.

Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi

John the Theologian

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian is the youngest of the 12 apostles, but he was the only one remaining with the Saviour during the most difficult time of His suffering. And he was the only one of them whom persecutors failed to kill.
His gospel is also special – it speaks most clearly about the deity of Christ. Amazing, the passage from it – papyrus P52 – is the oldest extant manuscript of the New Testament, it is only 20 years younger than the original, ~130 AD. For comparison, the oldest copies of the texts of Homer, Plato, Tacitus are separated from the originals by about a thousand years (this is about the authenticity of ancient texts).
And, perhaps, one of the most mysterious events in the Holy Tradition is the death of St. John the Apostle. After living more than a hundred years, he retired from Ephesus and asked his disciples to bury him still alive, covering his face with a handkerchief. They did not dare to violate the teacher’s request. However, after a while, when the grave was opened, John’s body was not there. But every year, on may 21, a thin layer of ash (or “manna”) began to appear on the grave, bringing healing. In honor of this event, a spring celebration of the memory of the Apostle was established.
Many saints (Hippolytus of Rome, Andrew of Caesarea, and John of Kronstadt) believed that the Apostle John was still alive and would preach with Elijah and Enoch before the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In any case, the Holy Tradition recorded a change in the “order of nature” – corruption did not touch the body of the “Apostle of love”. This victory over corruption emphasizes his spiritual kinship with the most Holy Theotokos, who adopted John at the foot of the cross of the Lord.

Feat of Love

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.”
M. Gorodova

Thomas Sunday

“Until I see it, I won’t believe it!- Blessed are they who have not seen, but have believed!”
These are catch phrases from the gospel story about the unbelieving Apostle Thomas, the story which was supposed to convince doubters of the truth of the Resurrection of Christ.
However, a proud person believes only what he wants to believe. If he does not want to think about the afterlife (so as not to change his priorities), then he will not believe the risen from the dead. Therefore, the risen Lord never appeared to his persecutors, but He appeared to Thomas – because he wanted to believe that He was alive! Thomas himself was ready to die for Him: “let us go and die with Him” (John 11: 16). Sent to preach, he went the farthest – even to India. There he was employed by the king to build a Palace, he took a large advance, but spent all the money on beggars. When the king found out his money gone, he put him in prison, considering how to execute him. But the king’s dead brother appeared to the king at night and told him what a magnificent Palace Thomas had built for him in the Heaven. Then the king believed and was baptized with his people.
Through the Apostle Thomas, the Church made sure in the resurrection of the Mother of God, when for him, who was late, the disciples came to the tomb, but instead of Her dead body, saw Her risen.

Ninevites’ repentance

The short Bible book of Jonah is read entirely on Great Saturday at Vespers. Since it is very relevant these days, and its images are often used in the Church, let us briefly recall its content.
Jonah lived after the prophets Elijah and Elisha. One day the Lord commanded him to go to the city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Kingdom, and tell the Ninevites that the Lord would destroy them if they did not repent. But Jonah would not go to preach to the enemies of Israel, and he did not listen to the voice of God. He took a ship that was going to another country. But suddenly a great storm arose on the sea. The ship was about to sink. All were afraid. The shipwrights decided to cast lots to find out who had caused such a disaster. The lot fell on Jonah. Jonah confessed his sin and said: “Yes, I have sinned against the Lord! Throw me into the sea, and the storm will stop.” When he was thrown into the sea, the storm subsided. By the will of God, the prophet was swallowed by a huge fish (“whale”). Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, praying to God for mercy. Here the Lord revealed his special glory, having kept him safe.
Three days later, the whale washed the prophet up alive on the beach. After this, Jonah went to Nineveh to fulfill the will of God. He went around the city and preached to everyone, saying: “Another forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed!» And people believed his words. The king took off his Royal vestments and sat down on the ashes. The Ninevites imposed a fast on themselves, began to pray and offer penance for their sins. Even the cattle didn’t eat anything those days. And the Lord saw their works, and He had mercy on them.
But Jonah protested at this mercy of God, and even began to ask for his death from God. He probably thought that now he would be considered a false prophet.
But the Lord again brought Jonah to reason. In front of the tent that Jonah had set up for himself near Nineveh, a large plant grew up one night and protected him from the heat of the sun. But the next day the worm eroded this plant, and it withered. Jonah was very sad and sorry for the dead plant.
Then the Lord said to him: “you are sorry for the plant that you did not work on and that you did not grow. So should I not pity Nineveh, the great city, where there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know the difference between the right hand and the left, and a lot of cattle?»
The three-day stay of Jonah in the belly of the whale and his miraculous salvation was a prototype of the three-day death and resurrection of Christ the Saviour.

Resurrection of Lazarus

In the famous parable the rich man in the hell begged to send Lazarus from Paradise to his alive relatives to warn them about the consequences of a sinful life, but he was denied for such a reason: if they believe neither Scriptures nor the prophets, they will not believe the one who has risen from the dead. But, as if to prove this, God raised up another, but also Lazarus! And so-those who did not want to believe Christ, instead of glorifying Him, decide that they will kill them both. In our time, more than a hundred thousand “Lazarus” have had the experience of clinical death, but it only confirms the words of the gospel that even the miracle of the resurrection will not correct non-believers…
On Lazarus Saturday, we celebrate the miracle of Lazarus ‘ Resurrection. The Lord loved him and his sisters, often visited them, and called Lazarus his friend. Therefore, when the Saviour learned of his death, He was ” grieved in spirit and indignant.” After listening to Martha and Mary, who testified their faith that if the Lord had been with them, their brother would not have died, Christ went to the cave and raised the four-day-old dead man. In this way the Lord revealed his nature: he wept as a man, but raised Lazarus, revealing himself to be God. It was a miracle that destroyed the last doubt that Christ was the Messiah. After this great event, all the people of Israel gathered to meet the Savior at Passover in Jerusalem to glorify Him.
By raising Lazarus, the Savior also showed the possibility of his own Resurrection. As well as the fact that faith and prayers for other people can save them even in death, as the faith of the sisters Martha and Mary saved their brother Lazarus.
And the resurrected Lazarus lived for another 30 years, became a Bishop on Cyprus, and, according to tradition, never laughed to death.

Beginning of our salvation

It is believed that the main holiday of the Most Holy Theotokos is the Dormition. But it is for reason that the Holy Church sings at the Annunciation: “Today is the beginning of our salvation!” And the whole life of our Lady is for this day. “The Word became a human being” is about today’s event. She herself prophesies about this day: “From now on, all generations will call Me blessed”
For 55 centuries, the Creator waited for this most honest vessel to become a part of the visible world to save it. He could have waited longer. This is why it is so important to understand that if it were not for the purity and humility of the Holy Virgin, we would still be living without the Savior (or rather, we would not be living at all). Because neither before nor after was there on Earth like Her. That is why we will always sing the Archangel hymn to Her:
Rejoice, Gracious One! The Lord is with Thee!

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk: We will definitely celebrate Easter

During the coronavirus pandemic the Church has to make innovative decisions in order to comply with the instructions of the authorities, to protect not only the physical life and health of people, but also the spiritual one. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for external Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, told RIA Novosti in an exclusive interview about his view on the second address of the President to the Russians and new measures to combat the epidemic, on the possibility of combining them with Church life, the upcoming Holy week and the celebration of Easter (this year on April 19).
— Vladyka, how would you comment on the second address of the President in connection with the spread of the coronavirus and new measures to combat the epidemic, in particular, the extension of the non-working period until April 30?

— An important and timely request. The President does everything to save people’s lives. Extending the weekend for another month will bring multibillion losses to the country, reduce the pace of economic development, and hit the wallets of ordinary citizens. This has already happened. But people’s lives are above all else, and no amount can compensate for the lives that will be lost as a result of non-compliance with sanitary measures. Therefore, I strongly support the strict measures that are being introduced. Every life has value, and any life saved is more important than economic achievements. We are seeing an increase in the number of people infected and dying, but let’s not forget that if there were no such measures, the numbers would be very different. The President stressed that if the situation allows, the quarantine period will be shorter. We would like that very much. But we understand that the peak of the disease is probably still ahead, and we need to do everything to make sure that as few people as possible are infected.

— How will the long-term nationwide quarantine affect the income of clergy, many of whom have large families, and will churches go bankrupt?
— The Church will not leave its priests and their families in this difficult situation. Maybe this whole situation will allow the society to finally fix in their minds the fact that Yes, the parish feeds the priests. The media, especially the so-called opposition and liberal media, constantly spread stories about the allegedly fabulous income of the clergy, about the limousines that priests allegedly drive around in. But there is none of this — no fabulous income. Most priests, with a few exceptions, live very modestly. And the Church exists solely on the donations of parishioners, it does not receive any subsidies from the state. Of course, the church will not go bankrupt, but in parallel with the sharp reduction in income, which is inevitable, we will have to reduce spending. Somewhere, perhaps, it will be possible to organize the submission of memorial notes online and the transfer of donations online. Only it is very important that no price lists appear anywhere: this costs so much, and this-so much. Donations can only be voluntary, and the amount must be determined by the donor. And if he can’t donate anything at all, then that shouldn’t be an obstacle to accepting a commemoration note from him.

— How can the Church support the parishionners, and what kind of support do you expect from the faithful?
— All social services of parishes, courtyards and monasteries are instructed by the Patriarch to provide assistance to those people who are at risk, if possible. What kind of help can it be? Delivery of food and medicine. Of course, this includes pastoral support on an individual basis, in compliance with all the rules of individual protection. In other words, priests will come to the homes of the elderly and the sick in order to confess, give communion, and assist them, as they always did before the introduction of sanitary measures.
Every situation of crisis is also a situation for new opportunities. Today, our faithful have a unique opportunity to create what the Apostle Paul called a “home Church”. After all, the Christian family is a Church in miniature. Jesus Christ said: “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matt. 18: 20). He didn’t say, “where a hundred or two hundred or five hundred people will gather,” but he said, “two or three.” Where do people most often gather in twos and threes? In the family. Now is the time to think: do we often pray together with our loved ones, children, and parents? After all, in many families, the day begins with a fuss: children are in a hurry to go to school, dad and mom – to work, to have time to eat, but not to be late for the bus. And there is no time to pray. And in the evening, everyone is tired, I want to talk and watch TV. Well, it seems like, and again I have no time to pray, and I’m getting sleepy. Building a home Church is the most important task of every Christian. We often have such a peculiar consumer attitude to the Church: we will submit notes, and the priest will pray. The Church is perceived as a combine of funeral services, where you can come, order a service, get it, and then let life go its own way. Meanwhile, the Church should have a direct continuation in Christian families. Those who have not yet created their own home Church have a unique chance to do it.

— Isn’t it a sin to prepare for holidays and celebrate, even Easter, in such a difficult period for everyone in General? Is the emphasis of the holiday shifting and how do you think?
— On the contrary! The feast of the Resurrection is a celebration of victory over death. We will definitely celebrate Easter, even if we can’t come to the temple. Remember the Soviet times. Not all believers could get to the Church on Easter. Police cordons stood, young people were not allowed in. And there were no live broadcasts of services on TV at that time. Where was Easter celebrated? In their secret home churches, in their families.

— Under the new measures, going to the temple is fined, and any police officer has the right to stop me and turn me around halfway. Is this normal for believers? And if the temple is closer than a hundred meters from the house, closer to the store, then you can enter it or not?
— This is an interesting question, thank you for being open. Much will depend on the region. As well as the clarity of actions of Federal and local authorities. In some regions, there is no quarantine at all. And in Moscow, a self-isolation regime has been introduced, but how it works in practice is not yet clear to everyone. At first they said that they would give special passes to employees of those institutions that are not closed. Then they said that there would be no special passes. We are currently preparing our own certificates for clergy and Church workers.
— Will the clergy continue to serve in monasteries and churches on Easter and in General every day, as usual, until April 30, or will something change?

— Services in monasteries and parishes do not stop for a day. There is a lot of misinformation about this right now. Here somewhere even with a reference to me wrote that the sacrament of Communion will not be performed. That’s not true, I didn’t say that. All services and all sacraments will be performed. But the issue of admitting believers to churches will be resolved differently in each region and in each diocese, depending on the epidemiological situation. Somewhere there may be a situation that you will have to serve behind closed doors. Somewhere, a small number of believers may be allowed to be present at the same time.

— How do you think the situation will develop further, especially palm Sunday (April 12), Holy week (from April 13) and Easter (April 19)? If I, for example, want to come and light a candle and hand over notes — will they let me in?
— As I have already said, the doors of all churches in Moscow are currently open, but the Patriarch urged the laity to stay at home. And in other regions-in different ways. It is not yet clear how the situation will develop in each particular region. Therefore, the most correct thing is to stay at home, do not go out, and observe a self-isolation regime. I think that before Holy week, each diocese will adopt and voice recommendations regarding the possibility or impossibility of visiting the Church.

— Consecration of cakes, eggs, exchange of gifts, common meals – can all this be canceled? How then can people express their joy and share it?
— A common family meal — why not? Inside their home Church, each family can bake Easter cakes and dress up on Easter night after watching the broadcast of the Patriarchal Easter service from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. And if it happens that somewhere it will not be possible to bless cakes, eggs and Pascha (Easter sweet cheese with raisins), then you will have to imagine how during the seventy years of Soviet period, many believers were deprived of this opportunity. And when next year we all come to bless the cakes, we will remember once again this year of the Easter lock and will be glad that many of us did not appreciate: the opportunity to freely come to the temple and pray together. Let’s not dramatize the situation. Several generations in our country have lived in conditions of persecution of the Church. In the 1930s, most of the churches were closed, the priests were shot, and in many cities and villages it was impossible to come to the Church, take communion, or baptize a child. And so the Church lived for decades. Now, thank God, none of this is happening. We have complete freedom to live a full Church life. We are only temporarily in a situation where we are prescribed self-isolation. Let’s go through this time with humility and calm. Let’s work together to save as many lives as possible. For this, the Lord will reward each of us. But carelessness will be punished.
04/04/2020

Mary of Egypt

“The Standing of Mary of Egypt” on last Thursday is the culmination of Lent. In the Church for two months now, we have been taught examples of piety: the repentance of publicans and fornicators, icon worship and hesychasm. Like the Tree of life in the middle of Paradise, the Cross of the Lord is brought to us for worship in the middle of the Lent. As a guide to heaven, “The Ladder” of St John is recommended. And as the highest example of repentance (not for imitation, but for admiration) – the life of St. Mary. The fragile female nature was capable of impossible feats, surpassing the greatest men of desert. Her story fits into a few paragraphs, but can you imagine 47 years in the desert without food and clothing? What willpower and desire to please God helped her endure the external and internal fire? On the day of her memory – on the 5th Sunday of Lent – the Canon at Matins commemorates the righteous Job and the poor Lazarus: “As Job in leprosy, eaten by worms, so Lazarus before the gates of the rich prayed: blessed is the God of our fathers. And no one gave him even a crumb from the rich man’s table, but he received instead the bosom of Abraham.” Because none of our sacrifices, nothing earthly, can compare with what God has prepared for those who love Him. “The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant who, had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matthew 13: 45-46). This pearl is Christ. To be with Him, true Christians are willing to bare with suffering, privation, and even premature death. The main thing is that both life be Christ and death be gain (Epistle to the Philippians, 1: 21).

Instructions to the rectors of parishes and courtyards, Abbots and Abbesses of monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church in connection with the threat of spread of coronavirus infection

The document was approved by the decision of the Holy Synod of March 17, 2020 (journal # 30).

For the sake of pastoral care of people, as well as in response to the request of the sanitary authorities, while maintaining a firm faith in God’s good Providence and in Divine omnipotence, the following rules are adopted, taking into account the canonical and liturgical Traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Until the epidemiological situation changes for the better and the diocesan administration gives appropriate instructions to terminate this instruction in full or in part, the following must be done in parishes, Patriarchal, Episcopal and monastic buildings, as well as in stauropigial and diocesan monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Concerning The Communion Of The Holy Mysteries Of Christ

1. Bearing in mind that the offering of a Bloodless Sacrifice can never be canceled, because where there is no Eucharist, there is no Church life, and also that the Holy Body and Blood of Christ are taught for the health of both the soul and the body (see, for example, the prayers of St. John Chrysostom, the 7th and 9th of the Preparation to Holy Communion), taking into account, however, the historical practice of the Orthodox Church in the conditions of epidemics[1], — Communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ is to be done with wiping the spoon with an alcohol-soaked cloth after each communicant (with regular renewal of the impregnation) and then dipping the spoon in water with respective disposal of water.

2. The water after Communion must be served separately for each participant in disposable glasses.

3. Use disposable sanitary gloves to distribute the antidoron.

4. Cloth for the communion of the laity must be used only to protect the Holy Mysteries from possible falling on the floor and for wiping the spoon only. Wiping of the mouths of the communicants must be with paper napkins which will be burnt. The cloths should be boiled and washed with due reverence after each liturgical use.

5. Communicants should refrain from kissing the Chalice.

Concerning the performance of the sacraments of Baptism and Anointing

6. Strictly adhere to the practice of changing and consecrating water for each individual case. In this regard, the sacrament of Baptism is performed only individually with intermediate disinfection (wiping) of the font (baptistery) with a disinfectant liquid.

7. For anointing with oil, use a cotton swab (instead of a string) and a paper napkin (instead of a sponge), followed by burning.

Concerning the performance of the sacrament of unction

8. When anointing the sick in the temples, use for each parishioner individually disposable cotton swabs, which must be burnt.

Other instructions regarding the performance of services, pastoral practice, and parish life

9. Instead of presenting the cross for kissing at the end of the divine Liturgy and other services, it is recommended to place the cross on the heads of parishioners.

10. Returning to the statutory practice, which has been changed in recent years, anointing at the all-night vigil is performed only in cases when the litias and the consecration of oil are performed. When anointing use for each parishioner separately a disposable string (a cotton swab) with subsequent disposal. In other cases, perform kissing of the gospel or a festive icon (cross) after the polyeleos only with the blessing of the priest and wiping the gospel and icon (cross) after each kissing using a disinfectant solution.

11. Clergymen are advised to refrain from offering their hands for kissing.

12. Use disposable hygiene gloves to distribute the prosphora and consecrated bread at the all-night vigil.

13. Pay special attention to the cleanliness of utensils and liturgical vessels, wiping them after each liturgical use and thoroughly washing them with boiling water.

14. Suspend the work of Sunday schools, as well as parish sections and activities until further notice.

15. If possible, the social services of parishes and monasteries should help elderly parishioners to deliver food and essential goods to their homes.

General instructions

16. Abbots should instruct employees of parishes and monasteries to strictly observe general hygiene measures, including hand disinfection during the day (at least once every 2 hours).

17. Provide frequent airing of churches, parish and monastery premises.

18. Regularly treat the surfaces of  temple furniture (including places for writing notes, candle boxes, etc.), as well as door handles with disinfectant solutions.

19. Regularly treat with disinfecting solutions icons located in the Church, which are applied to the parishioners.

20. Clergymen, clergy, and employees of parishes and monasteries should be responsible and attentive to their well-being. If you feel unwell, immediately inform the rector and seek medical help.

21. Abbots and rectors are required to measure the temperature before the start of the working day (for example, using a non-contact thermometer) for priests, clergy, and church employees who interact with a large number of parishioners.

22. Explain to parishioners that the implementation of the imposed regulations and restrictions should be performed as following the words of the Holy Scripture:” do not tempt the Lord your God ” (MT. 4:7). Also explain to parishioners that in case of symptoms of flue or other infectious diseases, they should refrain from visiting churches for the sake of love for their neighbors and care for them.

[1] – in particular: communion of patients with infectious diseases after other communicants (or even at a separate service) with wiping after each communicant with a cloth and then burning it; the use of a separate vessel for the patients and the spoon, washing them in vinegar with the pouring of the latter into a dry well