The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem is the triumph of the Savior’s earthly life. They want to make him King, because He can Make Israel Great Again. So that they would not obey to the Romans but they would be paid tribute by the barbarians, as in the times a thousand years before. And that it would be good for everyone in Israel. But it is impossible to build happiness on neighbor’s grief, and instead of seizing power, Christ continues to teach: “Pay to Caesar that is Caesar’s and to God that is God’s”, and “Love your neighbor”. And we know that in a few days the Son of God will be betrayed, tortured, and crucified by His people. And no one will stand up for Him. Such is the gratitude of Israel for that the Lord healed his children of diseases. For freeing him from the bondage of Egypt and Babylon. He would have freed them from the Roman one as well, but He came to free us from the bondage of death.And in the coming days, called the Great Days, we will once again watch with awe the realization of the Divine plan for our salvation. Holy Week is the culmination of Christianity and human history. Yes, the creation of the world was also the greatest event and miracle, but this is hardly mentioned in the church calendar. Because it was easier for God to create the universe than to guide us to the right path, for which He had to taste death. The trillions of stars in the sky do not obscure His main creation for Him; the life of each of us matters to Him! As well as the prayer of each of us.
Today, on the feast of St. Apostles Peter and Paul, we also commemorate St. Paisios of Mt Athos. A great Saint and miracle worker of our days (he rested in God on mount Athos in 1994), he left us many useful books.
St Paisios of Mt Athos about reverence.
It is a deep respect for God, both in thought and action. Reverence for God must determine all aspects of our being.
God is moved with reverence. Reverence is the fear of God, the action of God’s grace in the human soul. A devout person everywhere behaves with attention and modesty, he vividly feels every Holy thing. For example, he is careful not to stand with his back to the icons; where they are sitting, for example, on a sofa or chair, he will not put the gospel, a spiritual book or some Holy object; if he sees an icon, his heart and his eyes are covered with tears. Even if he sees the name of Christ written somewhere, or a piece of newspaper thrown on the ground, where, for example, the name of Christ is printed, or the words “Holy temple of the Holy Trinity”, he picks up this piece, reverently kisses it and he is sad that it was thrown to the ground.
And how many people indifferently, without noticing anything, put their pots on newspapers where icons or some spiritual article are printed, and then throw out the garbage. Do you think such people can truly love the Lord? And do they need God? But without the love of God, there is no salvation. Only those who love the Lord with all their heart are gathered in Paradise.
“Geronde (old father), how can we acquire reverence?”
—The fathers say that in order to acquire reverence, one must live or communicate with people who have it, and observe how they behave. Paisius the Great, said:
“Associate with people who love God and have the fear of God, so that you may also acquire the fear of God.” But imitate, only understanding the meaning of actions, otherwise it will be false worship.
— And why do the Holy fathers only say about reverence that if you want to acquire it, you should communicate with the person who has it? Why don’t they say the same about other virtues?
-“Because reverence is transmitted. The movements, the behavior of a person who is reverent, like a fragrance, is transmitted to another; of course, if there is a good disposition and humility in him. I will tell you that if a man has no reverence, he has nothing spiritual. A reverent person is like a child who has no evil thoughts about his father and mother, because he loves his parents and sees everything they do as good and pure. How much more should one be in awe of God!
There are also those who have only a dry external reverence: they stand on their feet for a whole vigil, but they are not firm in their faith.
“Geronde, what else can help a man acquire reverence?”
- The study of sacred things, as well as the use of the opportunities that are given to us. For example, if I have the opportunity to go to a temple for a short time and pray, and if I don’t use it, then I deprive myself of Grace. But when I want to go in, and I don’t because of some obstacle, I don’t lose Grace, because God sees my good intention.
— Geronde, how does reverent behavior in the temple help us?”
–When you go to the temple, say in your mind: “Where am I going? The temple is the house of God. If, when we come to a worldly house, we wipe our feet, and sit down modestly, how should we behave in the house of God where Christ is sacrificed? Christ has redeemed us from sin; he heals and nourishes us with His all-Holy Body. All these terrible and divine events, when we remember them again, help us to behave with reverence in the temple. But at the divine Liturgy, I notice that even at the most Holy moments there are people whose minds are really far from the Lord!
From lack of reverence, we are possessed by an unclean spirit. Previously, people who were ill took oil from their lamps, anointed them and recovered. Now the lamp is lit just as a formality, just for illumination, and the oil is poured into the sink when the lamp is washed.
Once I was in a house and saw the owner washing a lamp in the sink. “Where does the water go?” “To the sewer,” she says. “I see —” I say — ” what is it, that you take an olive oil from the lamp and anoint your child crosswise when it is ill, and then pour all the oil from the lamp into the sewer? What excuse do you find for this? After all, you don’t pour clean water into a filthy bucket and drink from it, and you don’t put clean underwear in the closet along with dirty ones? And how will God’s blessing come to your house?»
In modern homes, there is no place to throw away some consecrated thing, for example, a piece of paper in which the antidor was wrapped, and previously it was usually buried somewhere in a clean place.
In one house, which I once had to visit, the iconostasis was arranged under the stairs, although there was plenty of space. And in another house, the owner arranged an iconostasis in front of a sewer pipe. “Well —” I asked her,” how did you come up with the idea of making an iconostasis in such a place?” So how will Grace come after that? For this, even what we have is taken away from us.
And here’s another thing to be careful: you have something with crosses on the couch, but you can not sit on the crosses and step on them. Jews make shoes with crosses, often depicted not only on the outside of the sole, but also on the inside — under the heels and soles. And you pay money and trample on crosses!
And what reverence we should have for icons! A devout person is especially in awe of icons. When we say “venerate icons”, we mean that he is in awe of those who are depicted on it. If a person who has a photograph of their father, mother, grandfather, grandmother or brother can’t tear it or step on it, then isn’t this much more true of an icon! When a person with reverence and fervent love kisses the Holy icons, inside himself these saints are depicted. Saints rejoice, being imprinted in human hearts.
”Why, Geronde, is reverence so rare in our times?”
-Because people have stopped living spiritually. They interpret everything through worldly logic and cast out of the divine grace. And before, what awe! Grannies, very simple and reverent, they fell to the ground in front of the mules of the monastery and bowed to them when the monks came down on their mules on business. “These are the mules of the Mother of God,” said the grannies, ” and let us bow to them!” If they showed so much reverence for the mules of the monastery of the Most Holy Mother of God, imagine how much reverence they had for Her!
The whole basis is in awe. Someone only touches the wall against which the icon was leaning, and already accepts the grace, and someone can have the best icon, but not get the benefit, because they do not have reverence. One may benefit from the ordinary cross, and the other, without reverence, will not benefit from the life-giving Cross itself.
You should always remember that where icons hang and stand, you can not even raise your voice, nor swear, you can not smoke near the icons in the house!
The house where the icons are located, the Bible – this is a small Church of God, so you need to behave very reverently. We do not need to test the patience of God, the love of God.
Awe is slowly lost, and all the evil we see comes from it. From inattention and indifference to shrines, people often become possessed. One woman became possessed because she poured Holy water into the sink. She had some Holy water left in the bottle. “Ah,” she said, ” this Holy water is not fresh, and I need a bottle.” She poured out the Holy water, and even washed the bottle, and then began to rage.
The grace of God is gone, because grace cannot remain in a person who is not reverent and is indifferent to God.
– And if, father, someone spills the Holy water by mistake?” – If he put the Holy water in the closet and forgot about it, and accidentally poured it out, then it is half the sin, but if someone else put this Holy water in the closet, and the person who poured it out did not know that it was Holy water, then it is not his fault.
How can the divine Grace approach a person if he does not venerate the Holy place, does not honor it? Grace will only go to those who honor it. “Do not give a Holy thing to dogs,” says the Holy Scripture. Success in faith is impossible if there is no spiritual sensitivity and attention to everything sacred and divine.
You must not give the Lord the worst that you have. Cultivate reverence and modesty as much as you can. This will help you accept the Grace of God. Because, having reverence, spiritual modesty, a person, if he is also humble, accepts divine Grace. If there is no reverence and humility in him, then the Grace of God does not approach him. In the Holy Scriptures it is written: “On whom shall I look, but on the meek and silent and trembling of my words” (Is.66:2).
Saint John of Shanghai (1896-1966) is our contemporary. He did not have the majestic appearance of a white-haired old man: small, ugly, with a speech defect, often in a crumpled cassock and bare feet. Some of the people around him were even embarrassed for “such a Bishop”, because he served in major cities: Shanghai, Paris, Brussels, San Francisco.
He often went barefoot, and once an order came from his superiors: wear shoes. The Bishop wore them slung over his shoulder with the laces tied. A new order has arrived: “put on your feet”, the Bishop was obedient and put on.
Saint John took monastic vows at the age of 30. Since then, the prayer has become a greater reality for him than the cares and experiences of earthly life.
Since his monastic tonsure, Saint John never went to bed, sleeping sitting up only a few hours, setting aside the night for prayer. He ate, often mixing all the dishes: soup, garnish, compote – so that earth food did not seem like a pleasure. Already then, Saint Nicholas of Serbia said of him: “if you want to see a living Saint, go to father John in Bitol!»
At the age of 38 (1936), against his will, but for obeying his spiritual mentor, Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, he became a Bishop.
With the episcopate, the Saint did not change his ascetic practice. He constantly prayed, served the divine Liturgy every day, fasted strictly – ate only once late in the evening, and ate only prosphora during fasts. The Saint visited the sick daily and demanded the same from his clergy. In order not to be praised, the Bishop made a fool of himself – he was often late for Church, went barefoot and in rumpled clothes. But in all that concerned the service, the he was very strict with himself and others. He never spoke in the altar, and after the service he remained in it for several hours.
The first place of the Episcopal Ministry of St. John was China.
In Shanghai, where Saint John was sent in 1934 from Belgrade, there were about 20 thousand Russians. Bishop John found a huge number of homeless orphans on the streets of the city. The Saint created an orphanage. He often collected sick and starving children from the streets of Shanghai’s slums. The orphanage existed from 1935 to 1951, during that time its pupils were more than 3,500 orphans — Russian and Chinese.
During the Japanese occupation of China, the shelter often had no food. Then the Saint prayed, and unknown people came, bringing the necessary things.
When the Communists came to power, Russians from China fled to the Philippines. In 1949, five thousand refugees were on the island of Tubabao. The Bishop went around the island every day and protected the island from seasonal typhoons with prayers and the sign of the cross. And indeed: 3 years of typhoons bypassed the island, but as soon as the last batch of Russian refugees were taken out, a strong typhoon hit and almost completely destroyed all its buildings.
The refuge in the Philippines was temporary, but the Russians were not given visas to Europe or USA. The Saint went to Washington to take care of this. As a result, the US Congress changed the refugee law, and Russians were able to enter the USA. Some of the Russian refugees went to Argentina and Australia.
The Saint was appointed Archbishop of Brussels and Western Europe in 1950. Many miracles and healings occurred through his prayers. In Paris a local Catholic priest told his parishioners: “You say that there are no miracles or saints now. What proof do you need if Saint John Barefoot is walking the streets of Paris today?”
In 1962, Saint John was transferred to San Francisco. The Saint found a mess in the finances during the construction of the Cathedral, and called the debtors to account. Debtors sent complaints to the Synod. This was taken advantage of by the Saint’s detractors: they raised the question of the” illegality ” of his appointment to the pulpit in San Francisco. There were many in the Synod who despised the living Saint as “an insufficiently subtle theologian” and “a bad administrator”.
The Russian community in San Francisco was thrown into disarray. At parish meetings, the Saint was shouted and insulted. Among the persecutors of the Saint were even those whom he cured of cancer and other serious diseases. The case went to trial, where the Bishop was acquitted. Although the truth prevailed, the last years of Saint John were filled with bitterness of slander and persecution.
It was said that Saint John knew about the time and place of his death. On the day of his death, July 2, 1966, he served the divine Liturgy and after the service prayed in the altar for three more hours. The Saint died a few hours later in his room, praying before the miraculous icon of the Sign of the Mother of God.
For six days the Saint’s body lay in a coffin not embalmed, but despite the heat, there was no smell of decay. The mayor’s office of San Francisco made an exception, allowing the Saint to be buried, despite the sanitary ban, in the crypt of the Cathedral in honor of the image of the Mother of God “Joy of all sorrows”, which the Saint built and served in.
In 1993, a special Commission for the glorification of Bishop John discovered his relics and found them incorrupt. In 1994, Saint John of Shanghai was canonized.
A week after the birth of the Church, we remember all its saints, for they are its fruit, the purpose of Christ’s saving Sacrifice, and the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. Someone may not like something in a particular parish (the parishioners are not saints, and the priest is not without sin); and someone does not fully understand the Orthodox doctrine. But to see “which faith is true”, it is enough to compare the saints of different denominations. As Jesus Christ said, every good tree brings forth good fruit (Mt. 7:17). If the Orthodox Church even in our time generates such saints as Seraphim of Sarov, Paisius of Athos, John of Kronstadt, then we are in a reliable ship, the Pilot of which is the Spirit of God.
It is not easy to recognize a real Saint through his deeds or words, because he hides them. But the very atmosphere that is created in his presence testifies to his holiness: no one can create an atmosphere that is foreign to his spirit. The spirit of humility distinguishes our saints – it is the Holy Spirit that dwells in them. The acquisition of this Spirit is a necessary condition for eternal life. For proud people cannot co-exist in eternity: they do not know how to give in, love only themselves and, as a result, make life around them hellish. Humility is the only ground for true Love, it is the “atmosphere” in which God Himself resides.
Congratulations to all on the name day and on the upcoming fast – a time for humility of body and soul!
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”.
Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi