Return to Home Page


Twenty-seven years ago, in the freedom of New York, our part of the Russian Church canonized the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. At that time our Church had managed to collect the details of the lives of some 8,000 New Martyrs and Confessors, who lived and died for Orthodoxy from 1917, past 1945 and on and into the 1980s. This was important, for although there are surely millions of New Martyrs and Confessors, who belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, it is not possible to canonize anonymously. Therefore, it was necessary to collect the detailed biographies of as many of them as possible. Seven years ago, in the new freedom of Moscow, the rest of the Russian Church confirmed our act of glorification of its faithful. Recently, it was announced that, since the opening of archives there, the detailed list of New Martyrs and Confessors now extends to some 28,000.

In the Church we do not believe in coincidences. It is therefore significant that twenty-seven years ago the number of Russian Orthodox churches in the world was not far off 8,000. And today it is not far off 28,000. In other words every open church, including our own, represents one of the New Martyrs and Confessors. In other words, we have survived and we exist because of these newly-revealed saints. In the words of the Fathers: ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’. And we might expand that to say: ‘The blood of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia is the seed of the restoration and unity of the Russian Mother Church’.

Today, on the territory of the Russian Church, three new churches are being opened every day and one monastery or convent every week. Of nearly 170 Russian Orthodox bishops, over 130 have been consecrated since the fall of Soviet Communism in 1991. There are now more monasteries and convents in the Russian Church than before the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917. There are Orthodox television and radio stations, Orthodox bookshops and some 10,000 Orthodox Sunday schools.

Of course, it is true that there is still far to go. The wounds inflicted by Soviet atheism are still there, in alcoholism and abortion, in crime and corruption. Though many are baptized, only a few are churched. There is much to do and we have no illusions. We shall be more assured, only when another 28,000 churches have been opened, making some 56,000 churches, around the total number of before 1917. Nevertheless, the processes of healing are clearly under way in the Russian Orthodox lands and that none can deny.

Thus, thanks to their Martyrs and Confessors, those who live on the territory of the Russian Church are, like the Prodigal Son of today’s Gospel (Lk 15, 11-32), returning to the Father in repentance. Having been in ‘a far country’ and there ‘wasted their substance with riotous living’, having ‘fed swine’, that is, experienced a mighty spiritual famine, spiritually sensitive Russian Orthodox have returned to the father’s house. And they have found that the father came out to meet them, ‘had compassion’ on them, gave them ‘the best robe’ and killed the fatted calf and made merry.

The angels in heaven rejoice at the repentance of the Prodigal (Lk 15, 10). Therefore, let us not be like the elder son, who instead of rejoicing, ‘was angry’, thus in his pride cutting himself off from the common rejoicing. Thinking that he had always been faithful, he was jealous of the repentance of his younger brother. Like the pharisees, he considered that that he possessed the knowledge of the father exclusively for himself and would not share his father’s love. Therefore, he refused to commune together with his brother in his father’s house. His error was to fail to understand that all of us are in fact prodigals, inasmuch as we continually sin, that there is no such thing as righteousness among us, and that our only hope of winning Christ’s Mercy is through unceasing repentance, like that of the Prodigal.

Therefore, let us too rejoice at the repentance of our brothers and sisters and welcome them, for in welcoming them, we prodigals make ourselves welcome to God and the unity of His Church: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found (Lk 15, 24).

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance (Lk 15, 7).

Fr Andrew

Sunday of the Prodigal Son 2007
New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia

  to top of page