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The Triumph of Orthodoxy:
A Moscow Diary

To Maria, who helped me.

Sunday 13 May

It is exactly one year to the day, indeed to the hour, since I flew back from the historic Fourth All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in San Francisco and its vital decisions. Here is the fruit of that Council, the clear consensus to recognise the acts of repentance that have taken place inside Russia since 1991. Thus, the Patriarchal Church enters into communion with the Church Outside Russia, and we enter into communion with it.

And so I leave London City for Moscow, via Zurich. Landing in Zurich in the late evening, ready to change planes, I cannot help thinking of my last trip to Switzerland in 1993. That was for the funeral of Archbishop Antony of Geneva, the hierarch who ordained me in 1991. How content he would be today. Memory Eternal to him!

Monday 14 May

I land at Domodedovo Airport after 2.00 a.m. Almost involuntarily I say a prayer for the repose of Fr George Sheremetov, once a priest of our Church in London, whose family estate became the largest airport of Moscow, Sheremetevo.

I shall sleep for a few snatched hours on a divan at a friend's flat. I must get up early and take a taxi to Bolshaya Ordynka Street in the city centre. There is the Convent of Mercy of Sts Martha and Mary, built by the New Martyr the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, sister-in law of the martyred Tsar Nicholas and the favourite grand-daughter of Queen Victoria. It is here that I will be staying in Moscow.

As we travel, I see much that is heartening in terms of our Faith, the restoration of Russia. But I also see much that, though not Soviet, is nevertheless not worthy of the name 'Russian'. Rather it is 'post-Soviet', for it still bears the scars of the past. The interminable high-rise blocks of flats of the sprawling Moscow suburbs, with not a church in sight, remind me of how the Soviets tried to 'atheize' society. There is much to do here, so that all of society here changes from 'post-Soviet' to 'Russian'.

The taxi-driver, a young man in jeans driving a clapped-out Lada, tells me of how two winters ago he was saved by St Nicholas from a snowdrift and freezing to death: 'I just said, 'Holy Nicholas, help me', then suddenly the car at last moved out of it and on through the blizzard. I had almost given up hope. It was a miracle...'. He has an icon of St Nicholas in his car, as do so many Russians, churchgoers or not. He typifies that Russia which is baptized, but not Churched.

It is so pleasant to walk the streets in the centre of Moscow at this time of day. Immediately you see who is a practising Orthodox (a small minority) and who is not, simply by the way that people dress. Orthodox men are dressed modestly and soberly, occasionally they are bearded, the women also dress modestly and with respect for themselves and for others - neither provocatively underdressed, nor snobbishly overdressed. They wear skirts, with headscarves around their necks, which they are ready to put up onto their heads, whenever they enter a church to pray briefly. Since the churches are open, this may happen several times during the day - hence the headscarf ready. On seeing a priest, believers greet you or you greet them with the Paschal greeting and they come and take your blessing. Sometimes they will ask you to pray for them or someone else who is ill, pressing 100 roubles (£2) into your hand.

At the Convent, much remains from the time of the first Abbess, St Elizabeth, and the second Abbess, Valentina, who was the aunt of our eldest parishioner. The church building was returned to the Church only in November last year. There is much to do to restore things, for February 2009 will mark its centenary and they want to restore everything for that anniversary. They show me with love what remains, the church, its frescoes, the grand piano which was played by St Elizabeth and also by the martyred Tsar Nicholas. This has survived. I present them with the book of Stephen Graham, 'The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary', which has been given to me to present to them. They are intensely grateful, for it contains details of the Convent, from before the Revolution.

They want to restore what was theirs and make the Convent live again. There are already some ten sisters and several orphans who are cared for here. This is a place of great love, but they need financial help. Perhaps we could help. Could this not become in some sense the English Orthodox dependency (podvorie) in Moscow? Perhaps one day a substantial part of the relics of Sts Elizabeth and Barbara will be returned here? At present the Church Outside Russia has given a small fragment of the relics to the Convent. I spend all day at the Convent, talking with those responsible, meeting people, visiting the excellent shop with its icons, books and pictures of the Royal Family. What love they have here!

I retire late to my room, after taking tea with the senior nuns, and prepare the talks that I have written, one on Russia and the Universality of Orthodoxy, the other entitled 'Holy Russia and England'.

Tuesday 14 May

I attend Matins, the Hours and the Liturgy at the Convent. Fr Alexander, a youngish priest with a long beard, invites me into the altar. It is the feast of St Athanasius the Great. I reflect on how his greatness was not due to his great intellectual talents. It was due to his constant inspiration, which could only come from unceasing prayer, and how it vivified his intellectual talents.

There is at the Convent a great love for the Royal Martyrs. Why is it that extremist elements that left the Church Outside Russia and left the Sourozh Diocese of the Patriarchate refuse to kiss the relics of the New Martyrs? They are living in a self-imposed spiritual deprivation. They have never been here in spirit and therefore do not understand. They too need to be Churched.
The liturgy finishes at about 11.00 and I meet friends. At 1.30 I leave for the great pilgrimage I have waited to go on for 25 years. This is to the New Jerusalem Monastery to the west of Moscow, which was built in the seventeenth century by the great Patriarch Nikon. He conceived it as an international Orthodox centre, the Second Jerusalem, a second Holy Land. I am going together with one who works at the Duma (Parliament) and his chauffeur in an official car. This friend is well-connected politically. At present he is writing a book against political correctness, which should help to influence the State in favour of the Church. We talk about it, though he sits in front with his laptop, his mobile phone going off every few minutes.

Passing through the traffic jams, by the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and the Kremlin, we finally get out of Moscow and its unseasonable sultry heat. Everywhere there are cars and new houses and building material yards. There is no unemployment in the Moscow region, indeed there are labour shortages. There is much potential here. Russia can become Orthodox Russia, or else it can become just another vulgar Westernized country.

We come to the Russian countryside in spring, broad, birch-lined roads and wooden peasant houses with their characteristic windows. It is all so familiar. At last I am at New Jerusalem. Some of this huge complex has been restored, much has not. At last I am able to venerate the relics of Patriarch Nikon. He is locally venerated and there is an icon of him on his relics. I pray for us all. This is indeed the greatest man in Russian history. I am convinced that one day he will be venerated all over Russia. The problem was that he was so far ahead of his time. He was ferociously combatted both by the provincial chauvinism of those who became Old Ritualists, who regarded Orthodoxy as Russian ethnic property, and also by the increasingly Westernized liberal circles amongst the nobles, who ultimately wanted the dissolution of Russia into the great Western melting-pot of secularism. His destiny is the destiny of Russia. His way, the royal middle way, is our way.

My guide is a very pious woman in her late fifties. A true Orthodox, she venerates St Nikon together with me. New Jerusalem, as I will explain in my talk that I am to give at the Institute of Philosophy on Volkhonka Street on Friday, should surely become the centre for multi-ethnic Orthodoxy, but without the centralizing errors of the filioquist Vatican. The Orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity, non-filioquist, believes in unity in diversity and a voluntary acceptance of the Faith, not that imposed by fire and sword from centralist Rome.

We return to Moscow, as I have an appointment for the evening. Our chauffeur takes us at 120 miles an hour and we are stopped by the police for speeding. However, my friend explains to the policeman that he is on Church business. The policeman looks in, sees me and I greet him. He lets us off at once. All the police cars here have an icon of St George on their doors. The police are pro-Church. We return to Moscow, past a large post-office. The crest of the post office is the double-headed eagle. We eat early, at a very smart restaurant in central Moscow. Then we accompany my friend back to the Duma, where he will continue his lobbying work in favour of Church values.

At 8.00 I go to St Nicholas church, built in the seventeenth century. It is just opposite the Convent. The well-known Fr Alexander Shargunov, one whom I have admired for years, is priest here. A famous writer, his church houses a myrrh-giving icon of the martyred Tsar, which was here years before the Patriarchate had recognized his canonization. We talk of Church affairs at length, in wholehearted agreement.

Wednesday 16 May

I attend the liturgy for the leavetaking of Easter at Fr Alexander's. The spirit here is exactly that of the churches of the Church Outside Russia. In the altar hangs a large icon of St John of Shanghai. Two young priests and a deacon serve together with us. Fr Alexander's sermon is, as usual, inspired. After the service we have breakfast and have a lengthy discussion of Church matters and how modernism had undermined the Patriarchal Sourozh Diocese in Great Britain, which explained the schism there last year.

Fr Alexander understands this completely and how other Patriarchal parishes have been affected in individual places, in Moscow, Switzerland and Portugal. He understands completely that the struggle of the Church Outside Russia has been for the purity of the Orthodox Faith against Renovationism and he understands how we have suffered. It has been his struggle and his suffering also. I tell him how 25 years ago how I was told by these people that I was 'too Orthodox'. He then relates to me how one of them came to him from England in recent years and when Fr Alexander spoke to him of me, he objected that I was 'too Russian'!

Tomorrow, all this will be put right. Tomorrow is the victory of the Church over all these schismatic elements and their lack of love for Orthodoxy and for Russia. We exchange books (Fr Alexander can read English), though Fr Alexander has written more books than I have. But he insists that as the Church Outside Russia kept people going with books before, in Soviet times, now they in Russia must repay their debt and give us books. I am grateful to him.

Here I also meet another friend and then before long, representatives come from our Church, it is the San Francisco delegation, all of whom I know. I greet them jokingly with: 'Late again!' They complain that this is unfair, because I live closer to Russia and they took longer to get here. I must admit that they are right. I give my blessing to many parishioners and leave Fr Alexander. I have several more appointments.

After a snatched lunch, we head for the Donskoy Monastery to venerate the Don Icon of the Mother of God and the holy relics of St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow. The police are out in force. They support the Church. One salutes us as we enter the Monastery. They are expecting Metropolitan Laurus and the official delegation. Already some of the members of our Church are there waiting. I greet two of them, from France, whom I have not seen for several years. Having venerated the relics, I must leave, since I have another appointment.

I must go to the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate. Here I meet Fr Vsevolod Chaplin. We are to go to a television studio together to take part in a round table discussion, together with the Director of the Orthodox Radio Radonezh and the Union of Orthodox Citizens, a politico-religious group. This will be shown on the website. It seems that I am the only representative of the Church Outside Russia. It becomes apparent to me that our unity really is complete and how this Department, once so criticized, is really doing its utmost to change the world at the highest level, to Church the Russian political and business elite. One of the great problems is the hostility of Russian TV, which is filled with secularists. One of those with us says to me that we need to build 'another 20,000 churches in Moscow alone' in order to properly Church Russian society. He is no doubt right. The task before us all is tremendous.

At the round table there is also Fr Sergei Rybko, an outstanding missionary priest from the suburbs. After the programme he takes us to the church, which he is building nearby. The lower church is complete, the upper church is being built. The whole thing is the size of a Cathedral. Underneath are countless rooms for the Sunday school, an icon studio, rooms for his social work with drop-outs from society, whom he tries to bring into Church life, rescuing them from marginalization. As we enter through the chaotic building site into the lower church, it is full of people. The choir is rehearsing for the Vigil for the Ascension, people are buying books and icons. Above all, they are praying, lighting candles. The icons are beautiful. And all of this is outside service time. Dozens of people rush up to me to take my blessing. There is great piety. We eat with Fr Sergei. At Easter, there were 1,200 communions here. Fr Sergei's driver, a pious graduate seminarian from Kaluga, who, I suppose is waiting to find a wife so he can be ordained, relates life here to me.

From here we go to the Monastery of the Meeting (Sretensky) for the Vigil, at which our official delegation, with seven of our bishops, is present. This is the Monastery which has been raised up by Fr Tikhon (Shevkunov), with whom I have been in contact. He is the confessor of Vladimir Putin. Fr Tikhon looks about thirty, but in fact is about fifty. On account of the Moscow evening traffic jams, I arrive late. It is impossible to enter the church, and there are perhaps 1,000 people outside. We stand, following the service by loudspeaker. I meet several people from France whom I have not seen for years. It is an impressive service, the singing excellent, as everywhere. Confessions go on outside in the grounds. After it there is a huge picnic, with food laid out everywhere. Since I have already eaten with Fr Sergei, I eat nothing here. I give another TV interview and then a Radio Interview with Mother Nonna from Radio Radonezh.

I head back for Sts Martha and Mary Convent. It is very late, about 11.00 p m. I greet people in the street, easily identifiable as Orthodox from their dress. A woman comes up to me and begs me to pray for her husband Ilia. I also see, however, how the young people, unChurched, behave in the street, the young men drinking beer and many girls dressed in a very unseemly manner. This is post-Soviet Russia. All these, the great majority of contemporary Russians, are probably baptized, have an icon in their homes, but they have no idea of Church life, morality or behaviour. They are the feeding ground for alcoholism, drug addiction, AIDS and abortion. They demonstrate the urgency of the task of Fr Vsevolod, of Fr Sergei, of all those who are striving to resurrect Orthodox Russia. And that task is exactly the same task as that of the Church Outside Russia - to make Orthodox the life in our churches and in the corners of the world where we are present, against all human logic, against all the secularist ways of the Western world. Our survival in the Western world is in fact no less miraculous than the survival of the Church under the Soviet regime.

Thursday 17 May

At 7.00 am I go to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on the metro, together with Natalia Anatolievna, who is responsible for the Convent. She too has been invited. We arrive at 7.30. Crowds are already gathering, queueing. The police are looking after them in the light drizzle that has begun.

On entering the Cathedral with my official invitations (it is impossible to get in without them), I go to vest. I am asked by two people from France if I can confess them, as there seems to be no other French-speaking priest available. I obtain a Gospel and a cross and go to the southern gallery to confess. For some reason, there are no other priests confessing here. Immediately after the two French people, a large queue forms. I remain here for the next four hours confessing. I do not see the arrivals of the Patriarch, Metropolitan Laurus or the President, or the actual signing of the Act. I stop only for the Epistle and the Gospel readings.

I confess some fifty people. Although I am only supposed to confess people from the Church Outside Russia, in fact half of these penitents are from the Patriarchate, including workers for the Cathedral, Moscow businessmen in suits and some in business suits with beards, also two retired Army Officers and two retired police officers, in full dress uniform. I do not know their ranks, but they must have been important. From people I hear confessions of how they once persecuted the Church, in the old Soviet times. There are tears of repentance. I have no idea whether they realise they are confessing before a priest from the Church Outside Russia and an Englishman at that. I am moved by these confessions. One woman asks me what church I confess at in Moscow, because she wants to return. I tell her that I am from the Church Outside Russia in England.

After hearing some fifty confessions, at 12.00 I enter the altar for the first time. The Cherubic hymn is being sung. I must be present to concelebrate, to pray during the Eucharistic Canon. In the altar there are some thirty bishops and well over one hundred priests. The chalice on the altar is huge, but there are another ten chalices as well as that one.

After the service, which finishes at about 2.30 p.m., I meet dear Fr Tikhon Shevkunov, two young parishioners from Paris, and a priest from Italy whom I have not seen for some twenty years. The official photographs are taken on the steps of the Cathedral. I hear a voice with a broad American accent: 'Where's Fr John from Texas?' Another voice with an Australian twang says: 'I can smell the rain. I tell you, I know it's going to rain'. I overhear a conversation in German about the arrangements for the next day. A priest with a Chinese face smiles broadly. I meet the five parishioners from the London Cathedral. In the corridor I greet Fr Valentin Asmus, a remarkable man. At 3.30 there begins the official banquet with the Patriarch, our bishops and all our pilgrims. Opposite us sits a Russian layman, representing the Latvian Diocese. We talk about St John of Riga, his veneration, my translation of his life into English. Then an American priest joins in the conversation and explain that the cross he wears was given by St John to a priest whom he had ordained. When the priest died, his widow gave him his cross. We are united by the Latvian saint, John of Riga, both the near abroad and the distant abroad.

Russian Orthodox from all over the world and of all nationalities are gathered here, around our Patriarch, from whose hands we have this day received the Body of Christ. And I think of His Holiness the Patriarch, the schoolboy from Estonia, and Metropolitan Laurus, the village boy from Slovakia. Almost the same age, both from distant provinces, who today in Moscow concelebrate, their destinies fulfilled, the provinces triumphing over the centre, two Davids triumphing over Goliath. For today is the victory of repentance, the victory over all political and sectarian tendencies, in both parts of the Russian Church, the victory over Renovationism, the victory of the multinational Russian Orthodox Church over Soviet Bolshevism and Western materialism alike. Today, the Ascension, is the victory of the New Martyrs and Confessors, for they have already ascended to Christ and we have been drawn up a little to heaven, together with them. Today is the victory over all human sin and compromise. Today is the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

At the banquet the Patriarch says that now we must face our common task, to combine forces over Western secularism, wherever they are, through the Great Task of the Churching ('Votserkovlenie') of society. We are together, and therefore stronger. We are not a sect in a ghetto, out of communion with the rest of the world; we are to combat the world and bring it into the Church, we are to fight against worldliness. It occurs to me that the situation today in Russia is exactly that of the fourth century. Orthodoxy has become the official religion, but the world around us still has to be Churched. As President Putin has said: 'Church and State are separate in Russia, but not separate in people's hearts'. Of course, the situation for us in the West is different. We are still in the third century and still likely to face martyrdom. But now we are together and the gates of hell cannot triumph. Messages of congratulation from Patriarch Pavle of Serbia, from the Patriarchate of Antioch and from the Church of Bulgaria are read at the banquet.

This Patriarch is indeed the 'Sobiratel', the Gatherer, of the Russian Church. In October he heads for Paris, there to call to repentance and gather those scattered Russians who fell away from the Russian Church into freemasonry and renovationism. From there he will doubtless call back into unity those in America. The way ahead is clearing; we can see now how the Local Churches, ridding themselves of modernism, new calendarism and strange, heterodox practices, can gather around the Russian Church, from Georgia and Poland, the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Bulgaria and Serbia, Japan and Jerusalem. We are on our way to the restoration of uncompromised Universal Orthodoxy. The reuniting of the two parts of the Russian Church gives impetus to the whole Orthodox world to draw closer.

Everything that the Church Outside Russia has battled for over eighty years is now accepted. Today is the triumph of Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky (when will his holy relics be brought back to Kiev and Pochaev from Belgrade?), of Metropolitan Anastasy, of Metropolitan Philaret, who canonized the New Martyrs in 1981 and so brought down the Bolshevik regime, of Archbishop Averky, of all the holy hierarchs of the Church Outside Russia. This is my theme in my talk on Friday; everything I have thought these past thirty years is coming into some sort of fruition. For the tears and the sacrifices and the persecutions that we have endured, today, all this is our consolation. All the wrongs will be put right, all the injustices we have endured will be made up for, if not in this world, then in the next.

I return later to the Convent, where I must make phone calls. I turn down another invitation to appear on television. Tomorrow I already have a full day.

Friday 18 May

I get up at 6.00 and take a taxi to the hotel of the Patriarchal Pilgrimage Centre, where the pilgrims from America are guests. From there I can take one of the buses to Trinity St Sergius Lavra.

We arrive and venerate the relics of St Sergius of Radonezh. Outside the church where the holy relics are kept, a babushka takes my blessing and says: 'Welcome, come again, what a pity you did not come before'. I answer her: 'But in spirit we have always been here'. She smiles and we embrace. We visit the Lavra. Unfortunately, I do not see Fr Pavel or Fr Alipiy, with whom I made an appointment. They msut be too busy. Our meeting is not yet to be.

After the Lavra, we head for the town of Sofrino and the huge Patriarchal complex where they make everything for the Church, vestments, candles (I believe 1,000,000 a day), iconostases designed by computer, onion domes, cassocks, mitres, icons, chalice sets, holy tables, embroidered church banners, furnishings, everything imaginable for the Church. The quality of most of the work is remarkable, the finest I have ever seen. 3,000 people work here on a site of 20 hectares (50 acres). There is a railway station just outside for the workers and for trains to take the goods from Sofrino all over Russia and all over the world. The heat from the candle factory, I suppose, is piped into greenhouses, where tomatoes grow and atre consumed in the huge canteen where we eat. This is unique. Above the huge complex and its many, many workshops and warehouses is written in giant letters: 'Holy Russia, Keep the Orthodox Faith! It sums up everything that the Patriarchate is dedicated to.

We arrive back in Moscow at 7.15 pm. Here on Volkhonka Street, opposite the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, I am to give a talk on 'Orthodox Russia and the World Council of Orthodoxy'. Vladyka Agapit is here, newly arrived from Jerusalem, together with Fr Peter from San Francisco and Fr Nikolai from Munich. The talk is greeted enthusiastically and there are many questions and meetings with friends. There are many questions and I give another interview for a Russian website.

I return to the Convent late.

Saturday 19 May

Today is the Feast of St Job and also the day that the martyred Tsar was born. I get up at 6.00 a.m. and take a taxi to the Pilgrimage Centre again. Here buses take us to Butovo, to the south-east of Moscow. Butovo is where in the 1930s, over 20,000 people were slaughtered on Stalin's orders. Several famous bishops and over 600 priests were among the victims. A huge church has been built. It is here that Metropolitan Laurus and others of our Church came three years ago. Here there will be the great consecration of the church and I will concelebrate again, with the Patriarch, some twenty bishops and over twenty other priests.

The church looks extraordinarly beautiful, similar to Jordanville. The roads are lined with policeman, some of whom salute. Outside the church, hundreds of people are gathered, many lining up in queues for confessions. Loudspeakers and a giant TV screen will relay the service to the people, for there is not enough room inside for all. As we enter, I am greeted by a Russian journalist whom I met in England ten years ago. He wants rights to translate some of my books. We exchange visiting cards. We vest in the lower church, on whose walls are the icons of those martyred here seventy years ago. Details of their lives, and deaths, have been gathered from the Secret Police archives. Our unity is indeed sealed by the blood of the martyrs. What a pity that not all the members of our Church can be here to witness this great occasion! What a pity that there are a few individuals who have actually rejected this Triumph of Orthodoxy, leaving the fold of the Russian Church for other Local Churches or sects! If they repent, they can still return.

We vest and the great consecration begins. The holy table is prepared and six priests lift up the top of the holy table. One priest is from Argentina, one from Seattle, one from Germany, one from New Zealand, one from Houston, the sixth is myself, from provincial Suffolk, the only English priest here. The whole world is gathered around its Patriarch, from whose hands once more we will take communion. Russian Orthodoxy has become what potentially it always was - universal. The whole Russian Orthodox world joins battle against our common enemy - secularism. A side altar is consecrated at the same time as the main one - and this is consecrated to St John of Shanghai. I attend the banquet after the liturgy, where once again we are showered with presents from the Patriarchate - books on the New Martyrs and their holy icons.

In the evening I leave the Convent, making my farewells, and head for friends, where I am to snatch some sleep for a few hours, as I have an early morning flight at the airport, for which I must leave at 4.00 a.m. My friends, Alexander and Olga, live in a block of flats and have three children. They typify the Orthodox family. She is a Sunday schoolteacher, a deeply Orthodox woman, he works for the Patent Office, a deeply Orthodox man. They live for the Church and love the New Martyrs, hoping for the Churching of Russia, so that the Orthodox Monarchy can be restored. In their late thirties, they typify the new generation, battling against Western secularism, which is trying to take over the souls of the young, fighting for family values, a spiritual and moral Russia, the restoration of Orthodox Russia. From their cramped flat, they are the contemporary Russian confessors who battle for Orthodoxy. To think that there are those who wish to be out of communion with these heroes of the Faith!

Sunday 20 May

Today I have been invited to concelebrate, once more, this time at the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kremlin. To my great sadness, I cannot be present. Today, I must fly back from Domodedovo Airport, early in the morning. Sadly, I had no alternative, since I had no money for a more expensive flight. I am concerned that I will have problems getting through customs, since I have over twice the allowed weight, on account of books that I have bought and the many presents with which Russians have showered me. I need not worry. Seeing that I am a priest, a young woman sends me through ahead of the others, without bothering about the extra weight. I change planes in Zurich, taking advantage to visit the town a little.

Sitting by the river in the Sunday quiet in the centre of Zurich, the Alps around me in the distance, I reflect on how quiet, clean, orderly, neat and prosperous it is here in Switzerland. Moscow is huge and chaotic. But Zurich, the stronghold of Calvinism, is spiritually, antiseptically, empty. Moscow, on the other hand, is spiritually alive. I have no doubt as to where I would rather be. Indeed, I have received five invitations to serve as a priest in Moscow.

My last visit to Moscow was in 1976. Then I said that I would not return until the Church was free. I put off visiting in the 1990s because of the chaos of the dreadful Yeltsin years, with its Jewish oligarchy and mafia, and because the New Martyrs and Confessors had not yet been canonized. I put off visiting after the Jubilee Council of 2000 when they were finally canonized, because I could not concelebrate. Thirty-one years have been lost in some way or other; my only hope is that I still have a chance of gaining my soul.

Russia has won many battles, but there are still great and ongoing battles.

Firstly, Russia faced the Soviet yoke, the direct and bloodied persecution of the Communists. Today, Communism is dead - it was already dead, thirty years ago when I last went to Russia. Communism is a laughing stock there, the last dinosaur. The Church won against Godless Bolshevism, as is made clear at Butovo and all over Russia, where the New Martyrs, headed by the Royal Family, are so loved and revered. Both the Church Outside Russia, through her canonization of them in 1981, and the Church inside Russia, through her canonization of them in 2000, won this battle.

Secondly, we faced the modernist Renovationists. Many of them were exiled to the West, where they created the Eulogian schism, then problems in Finland and the United States. The Church Outside Russia suffered from them in Austria, England and elsewhere. The great battle of the Church Outside Russia was always for the integrity of the Orthodox Faith against Renovationism. We won, as has been made clear this week in Moscow. And the Church inside Russia has also won, both against the Renovationists of the 1920s and the Neo-Renovationists of the 1990s. The few priests involved in that movement (Kochetkovshchina/Chistyakovshchina) are today isolated and discredited, their mainly Non-Russian followers reduced to a tiny number. As Russia has been Churched, their Russian-language services, open iconostases, compulsory communion (without confession) has become ridiculed. This was just a phase. Orthodox Russia soon moved onto authentic Orthodoxy and rejected that convert kasha.

Thirdly, we faced and still face the battle against ignorance, obscurantist and extremist forces, fundamentalists and literalists. These have still not been Churched and they reject identity cards, passports and bar codes, wanting to live as Old Ritualists, placing emphasis on outward ritual, rather than inward purity of heart. This phase will also, no doubt, be won. These people too will be Churched and learn to live Orthodoxy.

However, there remains the great fourth battle. Today, Russian society is divided into three groups, 85%, 10% and 5%. The battle faced by the 5%, who are truly Orthodox, is the battle to Church the 85% of Russia that, though baptized, does not live Orthodoxy. They have not yet repented for the regicide of the Martyr Nicholas and his family, and they are attracted by the 10% of 'new Russians', who have become little more than Western secularists and anti-patriots. Those 10% work in the Russian media, especially television, in the Ministry of Education, here and there, in all the last bastions of atheism, which is what Western secularism and political correctness actually are.

This battle for the Churching of Russian society, for the resurrection of Orthodox Russia, towards the recreation of Holy Russia, is being fought now. Today, Russia is like a sick man who is recovering and rising from his bed. And he is looking and wondering which way to go: along the Western path of consumerism; or along the Orthodox path of full repentance and Churching, the path of Russian history and Russian destiny.

If Russia takes the first path, that of Western secularization, then she will choke to death in the fumes of Western pollution, physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual pollution, her climate killing her soul. And together with her, the whole Westernized world will choke to death also.

But if Russia takes the path of her Orthodox destiny, then the end of the world, the coming of Antichrist, will be put back at least another few decades and an example of repentance will be set to the whole world and countless hundreds of millions of souls will be saved.

Here is the choice. Here is the struggle in which we are all involved. And here is the moment of all our destinies.

Priest Andrew Phillips,
East Anglia

St Nicholas of Bari
9/22 May 2007

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