2014 Nativity Reflection by Metropolitan Jonah

A 2014 Nativity Reflection by His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, ROCOR bishop and former Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) from 2008-2012:

In silence let us behold the Incarnate God
as an infant,
Radiant with glory,
Swathed in rough cloth and lain in a manger.
Let us stand struck with awe
At the Presence of the Infinite Eternal One,
Born of the Virgin,
And exalted by the Angels.

We look through the cave of His Tomb
To the cave of the Nativity, overflowing with grace.
Swaddled in grave clothes, wrapped in swaddling clothes,
The same Christ comes forth clothed in glory.
We see the radiance of the Godhead in His face,
As an infant lying in the manger, and as a man hanging on the cross,
Coming forth from the tomb, a man reveals Himself as God,
Coming forth from the manger, God reveals Himself as man.

He became an infant to take on our weakness,
He became a man to identify with us in our suffering.
He showed our flesh to be a vessel of His Divinity,
And that His Divinity might contain our humanity:
God became flesh that we might become Divine,
The fullness of His Divinity indwelling our humanity,
That we might behold with our spiritual sight
The radiance of His Presence in our hearts.

He is baptized into our human life,
And takes on our death;
He is baptized into our death,
And imparts to us His eternal life.
He transforms our death by His life,
And transfigures our life by His death.
He buries us in the waters,
And shares with us His own life, enlightening and sanctifying us.

Look into the Cave,
And behold the Infant God;
Look into the Tomb,
And behold the Resurrected Christ.
Plunge into the depths of the waters,
And partaking of His death, be raised with His life,
That we too may be born
In the Kingdom of Heaven.

Metropolitan Jonah’s Sermon on the Feast of All Saints of North America

Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist

Washington, DC

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen)

His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, then Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in St Catherine's, the OCA podvorie in Moscow, with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate.

His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, then Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) in St Catherine’s, the OCA podvorie in Moscow, with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we celebrate the Sunday of All Saints of North America. We hear for a second time today, already in the service, the Beatitudes. Certainly the Beatitudes are an absolutely central part of the teaching of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ because they offer us a path to sanctity. Now we all know that we’re surrounded – just come into the church and we’re surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses, of all of these Saints who have shone forth before us. Many who have shone forth in Russia, those who have shone forth in America. Their icons are on the walls and we have their icons in our homes and we venerate them, and we remember them. Not only that, but we establish relationships with them, and we know that they’re there for us and they will come to our aid and will help us if we ask. The Saints are our friends, the Saints are those who, having attained to the Kingdom of Heaven, live forever in Christ. But the Saints are not only those who have been canonised by the Church. The Church holds up the great examples of sanctity, of piety, of those who have fought the good fight and struggled with themselves, and overcome themselves, have overcome the world, have overcome the forces of evil.

Last week we talked about the Holy Martyrs and how it’s imperative for each of us to strive to maintain the full integrity of our lives, and not to give in to the pressures of this world—lust, the desire for power, the desire for gratification, etc. We see all of those Holy Martyrs as those who were willing to renounce their lives, their possessions, everything that they had, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the sake of maintaining their integrity in Christ. The Church gives us a whole discipline of life to live by, and that in itself is there to help sanctify our life. It’s a discipline of self-denial, it’s a discipline of prayer and fasting, of how we live. That discipline is there in order to strengthen us when we have to confront the world, and all of those powers, all of those forces, all of those temptations that constantly come at us from all directions.

The Martyrs were those who, no matter what the world offered them, believed—and knew— that their relationship with Christ was more important than anything else in this world, than family, than possessions, than position—anything. We are also called to that same confession, whether it is going to cost us our lives or it might cost us our jobs—whatever it is in this world. The Saints are those who, having renounced themselves, have found their true selves.

What we are called to do is to renounce ourselves, to get over ourselves, and to live with that life which is given to us by Christ in the Holy Spirit, which is the only place that we find our true identity. That true identity, that true person of the heart, that person that God has not only called us to be, but created us to be, is holy, is beautiful, and cannot be damaged by sin, it cannot be damaged by rejection; it cannot be damaged by anything of this world, because God made it true and pure and holy. This is who we are called to be and who we are called to rediscover, because the life in this world, the life of this world, draws us away from that and has us create this false identity by which we live, running around gratifying our passions and desires, living according to our anger and resentments and our lusts, our envy and our pride and vainglory, and our self-assertion over other people—and all of these things, which are not of God. Rather, that true person of the heart, whom God knows us to be, is what we are called to rediscover in our lives, and to know that that process – which on one hand looks like some pretty kind of difficult asceticism, some difficult self-denial, some cutting away of the things that we like and that we want to do – is ultimately the most important thing in our lives: to find that true person of the heart, and to live according to that true person that God created us to be. Let all the rest pass away.

The Saints are those who did that, who set that as first and foremost, to live according to Christ, to live according to His discipline, to live according to His Gospel, to live so that that true person that he has created might emerge and be manifest. We see this of course most clearly in the holy monastics, because that’s what monastic asceticism is all about. Indeed, anyone who strives according to the discipline and life of the Church to overcome themselves will, to one degree or another, find this kind of self-mastery.

We look at the Martyrs, we look at the Confessors, we look at all of those who gave up the things of this world for the sake of the Kingdom of God and have set themselves on that path to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, being strengthened by their discipline so that they might tread that path which is laid out in the Beatitudes, so that they might be poor in spirit, so that they might mourn and be comforted, so that they might be meek, so that they might be peacemakers, and so that they might be able to endure when men revile and persecute and say all manner of evil against them falsely for Christ’s sake. [Would] that we might rejoice.

On this day we celebrate all of those Saints who have shone forth in the American land; those that we know, those we do not know. There are a few that are not yet canonised that I know about, and what an incredible inspiration and what an incredible model they have been and they are to us who are still in this earthly battle.

I think of Mother Olga, who is being revealed as a Saint in Alaska; this very simple woman, the wife of a priest in a place that I do not think it’s possible to imagine a place or a life that’s more hidden – to be the wife of a priest in a Yupik village on the Kuskokwim River in south-western Alaska. And yet God has graced her to visit hundreds of people to bring them peace, to bring them consolation, to bring them joy. Just as she did during her lifetime in this world, so she does now after her death, visiting people who have never heard of Yupik Eskimos, who never imagined that they were Christians, and yet her sanctity shines forth.

I think of Elder Dimitri, who was in Santa Rosa. [He was] one of the most important figures for the establishment of monasticism in northern California. His patient endurance, his example. We all know of Metropolitan Philaret [of ROCOR], whose relics were found incorrupt. We all know of these others who have shone forth—some that are widely known and some that only maybe we know about, some people who lived in the most complete obscurity but pursued Christ with the totality of their life.

Each one of us is called to be a Saint in that same way. We are given all the tools by the Church to work out that sanctity, to work out that salvation. We are given the grace of the Holy Spirit in baptism and chrismation; that grace is renewed every time we receive communion. We are given the gift of confession to help us to overcome our sins and to keep striving for that life of the Kingdom which is to come. We are given the disciplines of piety in order that we might redirect our desires and our thoughts and ideas away from the things of this world and to the things of God. That is why all of this is here—that’s why we have the temples, the Liturgy, everything that’s here is to enable us to live that life of the Kingdom of God which is given to us freely by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

So let us give thanks to God for all of those Saints that He has revealed, and those that He has not yet revealed, for all of those who love us, who pray for us, and who accompany us on our way to the Kingdom of God. Those we know, and those that we don’t.

There’s one final thought that I’d like to leave with you as to what real sanctity is about. This is from the thought of [Elder] Father Sophrony [of Essex], who was the one who revealed Saint Silouan [the Athonite]. Saint Silouan said that the task of the Christian is to expand our personal “I” so that “I” doesn’t just mean “me”. “I”—when we stand before God—not only includes me, but all of those whom I love, and all of those who love me, so that my “I”, as we grow spiritually, our personal identity expands so that when we stand before God we cannot think of ourselves alone, but with our wife, our husband, our children, our families, our friends, our parish, our people, our nation.

The Saints are those whose personal “I” expanded to embrace churches and peoples and nations. So let us expand that personal “I” by our love for one another, so that standing before God, we might give thanks to Him, truly, with one mind, with one heart, with one voice, as one mystical person in our Lord Jesus Christ, who has sanctified us and enabled us to be participants in His Kingdom.

[Singing and blessing the people with the Sign of the Cross] The blessing of the Lord be upon you through His grace and love for mankind, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Update on Metropolitan Jonah’s situation since Summer 2013

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I had sincerely hoped that after the agreement reached on May 27 between Metropolitan Jonah, Metropolitan Tikhon and Metropolitan Hilarion, I would never again have a need to write on this subject. It is a topic which, when I do take it up, causes me some discomfort. Yet it has come to my attention that several Orthodox commentators around the world have re-blogged my May 29 piece, in which I sought to communicate the news of the positive resolution at that time regarding Metropolitan Jonah’s situation, which appeared then to be entirely concluded.

I have remained silent on the subject since this summer, in vain hope that the situation would resolve, but, unfortunately, no new developments have come to light. In the interests of transparency, and desiring to preempt any possibly incorrect impressions readers of several blogs might glean from reading only my May 29 post, I must report a significant change in Metropolitan Jonah’s situation.

This past summer, without any forewarning, the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, informed his predecessor, Metropolitan Jonah, that he would be permitted to serve only at the OCA parish of St Mark’s in Bethesda, Maryland, located immediately outside the District of Columbia. Metropolitan Tikhon’s letter instructed Metropolitan Jonah that he would only be permitted to serve at another Orthodox parish in the event that +Jonah receives +Tikhon’s express written approval. Additionally, Metropolitan Jonah has not been permitted to offer the Sunday sermon at St. Mark’s for some time.

The explanation Metropolitan Jonah received for this sudden, arbitrary change was that it might be seen as unusual or improper for a retired Primate of the OCA to be serving at the DC cathedral of the ROCOR. At the kind invitation of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, the very kind First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Jonah had been serving at St John the Baptist Cathedral here in DC for almost one year following his sudden July 2012 resignation as OCA Metropolitan (at the request of the OCA Synod).

All of us here in the DC area were shocked by Metropolitan Tikhon’s letter, which came without any forewarning or expectation. This change in conditions obviously contradicts the assurances Metropolitan Jonah received in May of 2013 when he met and con-celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Metropolitans Hilarion and Tikhon at St Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania. At this Monday, May 27 meeting in the presence of Metropolitan Hilarion, Metropolitan Tikhon and members of the OCA Synod of Bishops promised Metropolitan Jonah (among many other things) his full freedom to serve wherever he was invited. Obviously, this includes the ROCOR Cathedral of St John the Baptist.

It is extraordinary to me that the most recently retired Metropolitan of the OCA enjoys such little freedom to serve. St. Mark’s has two attached priests in addition to its very kind pastor, the Rev. Fr. Gregory Safchuk, so there is no pressing pastoral need for Metropolitan Jonah to serve there. I am clueless as to why Metropolitan Tikhon or any of his fellow bishops on the OCA Synod felt it either necessary or appropriate to withdraw their earlier agreed-upon-promises to their former Primate and fellow bishop. The official OCA website has not featured any announcement of the changes in Metropolitan Jonah’s situation, nor have any members of the OCA Synod or Metropolitan Council commented publicly on the matter. 

Given the complete silence from anyone in the OCA headquarters in Syosset, NY on this matter, we can only wonder at the motives or concerns behind the decision to restrict Metropolitan Jonah’s service to this one parish immediately outside Washington, DC. Why would the OCA’s current Primate send a letter deliberately interrupting the ongoing parish ministry of his predecessor at another Orthodox jurisdiction’s DC cathedral? What need was there for this interruption, which caused confusion and concern among many parishioners at St. John the Baptist Cathedral here? Metropolitan Jonah’s ministry at St John’s was very popular, and his Bible studies well attended by parish members, as well as many from St Nicholas, the wonderful OCA primatial cathedral where I was chrismated in December 2011.

Since Metropolitan Jonah’s July 2012 resignation, St Nicholas parish membership has sadly declined, with some of their former parishioners becoming active members at St John’s. As someone who stopped attending services at St. Nicholas in late summer of 2012, returning only several times to the cathedral which I had so deeply come to love, I noticed the decline in attendance there, and the regular presence of many former St. Nicholas parishioners at St. John’s. 

The kind Fr. Gregory and delightful parish community of St Mark’s in Bethesda have warmly welcomed Metropolitan Jonah. He has continued to serve there regularly since the summer. The Metropolitan resumed his Bible study at St. Mark’s prior to his two trips to the United Kingdom over the summer and earlier this fall.

During his summer trip, Metropolitan Jonah was a guest of the Orthodox Fellowship of St John the Baptist, at whose summer Triennial International Conference he delivered one of the keynote presentations. During his fall trip, he was a guest of H.E. Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia. On both visits to the UK, Metropolitan Jonah was delighted to visit the wonderful Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex, established in 1958 by the late and venerable Elder Sophrony Sakharov.

Along with so many friends of the Metropolitan across the country, I remain confused and concerned by the inexplicable reassignment of Metropolitan Jonah to St. Mark’s, given that there was no pressing need for his service there, while his ongoing ministry at St John’s was popular, widely beloved, and caused offense to no one. The complete silence from the OCA Synod is deeply troubling, though it is hardly surprising. It astounds me that placing such restrictions on the most recent former Primate of the OCA could be considered Christian in any way, let alone pragmatic. I pray for a resolution, yet what sense would I have to trust men who have so repeatedly broken their promises, even ones made publicly? Still, I must believe this is all in God’s Providence. May His will be done in all things.

 I would encourage any of you who wish to do so to contact the leading clergy in the OCA in hopes of obtaining some answers. They should be able to offer ready explanations as to why Metropolitan Jonah is no longer permitted to serve freely as he was prior to this summer.

 

You may reach His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon at his office at 516-922-0550 or via e-mail at metropolitan@oca.org. You may contact the OCA Chancellor, Fr. John Jillions at his office at 516-922-0550 ext. 130, or via e-mail at chancellor@oca.org. The OCA’s Secretary, Fr. Eric Tosi, may be reached at his office at 516-922-0550 ext. 129, or via e-mail at egtosi@oca.org.

Yours in Christ,

-Ryan

Commemorating the four year anniversary of Patriarch Kirill’s enthronement

Video

This beautiful video is essentially a synopsis of parts of the Friday, February 1 festal Liturgy at Moscow’s restored Christ the Savior Cathedral commemorating Patriarch Kirill‘s enthronement four years ago.

The ethereal singing of the Meet is is/ Dostoino ‘yest to the Theotokos as His Holiness processed into the Cathedral and venerated the main icons and relics deeply moved me. Among the senior metropolitans con-celebrating at the cathedral with the Patriarch were His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

It was also a joy to behold the Patriarch’s profound reverence for the divine presence in the consecrated Eucharist following the epiklesis. I had never seen a bishop or priest fall completely prostrate before the altar as he did! In his prostration before the consecrated elements, his deep piety here shows his awareness and integration of his symbolic and liturgical role as the spiritual leader of the Russian Church, offering the prayers of all Russian Orthodox people before the altar.

It also struck me that the Church allowed cameras in the altar area itself, so what the viewer sees happening in the altar is truly remarkable- the intense emotions on the face of the Patriarch during the anamnesis and epiklesis itself. His deep reverence reminded me of how I imagine the most pious and devout of the High Priests at the Temple of Jerusalem would have been!

Following the Liturgy, His Holiness gave a sermon in which he outlined what he believed were the achievements of the past four years in the life of the Russian Church, and where he hoped additional developments would occur. Here is a YouTube recording of his sermon in Russian.

President Vladimir Putin, in his capacity as head of state of the Russian Federation, sent Patriarch Kirill a congratulatory telegram, while Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, as chairman of the Russian Government, met with the Patriarch along with his wife, Svetlana Medvedeva, who works closely with the Moscow Patriarchate coordinating joint Church-state efforts to ease the plight in orphanages, assist drug addicts, and advocate for traditional moral causes.

February 1, 2013- Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana Medvedeva congratulate Patriarch Kirill on the fourth anniversary of his enthronement.

February 1, 2013- Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana Medvedeva congratulate Patriarch Kirill on the fourth anniversary of his enthronement.

On Saturday, February 2, following a solemn Divine Liturgy, the Holy Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church under the presidency of Patriarch Kirill convened in Christ the Savior Cathedral.

February 2- the Holy Council (Synod) of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church convened in Christ the Savior Cathedral under the presidency of Patriarch Kirill

February 2- the Holy Council (Synod) of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church convened in Christ the Savior Cathedral under the presidency of Patriarch Kirill

Memorable words on how to live: “Love one another and forgive”.

Excerpted from the Eulogy for newly-reposed Archpriest Fr. Alexei Ohotin offered by Fr. Alexandre Antchoutine (here is a link to the full text of the eulogy):

“His final testament was this (before his death he spoke it to his grandchildren, and to all of us): observe two commandments – just two – and you will be saved. Love one another and forgive one another. Forgive every sin. All of our intrigues, all of our selfishness, and all of the things we do to hurt one another are irrelevant. Forgive them. The second is this – perform acts of charity, because through your charity the Lord will forgive your many sins.”

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Here is a link to the article about his funeral Liturgy, celebrated by Bishop George, vicar bishop to His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad (ROCOR). May Father Alexei’s memory be eternal! Вечная память!

Link

Urgent call for donations to assist ROCOR’s Holy Trinity monastery

Please spread the word, especially those of you studying in seminary or recently graduated!

“According to diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov, the reason the monastery’s problems have thus far remained out of the spotlight can only be seen in the modesty of the brethren: “These monks are extremely humble and because of this, they do not share their problems with the rest of the world, and instead they bear their crosses in silence,” he explained. “But the time has come for all of us to step up and help our monks.””

Here is an important link which takes you directly to the monastery’s Fund for Assistance.

Holy Trinity Seminary and Monastery, raised to the Glory of God in 1928, is in dire need of financial assistance to make critical infrastructure repairs and restoration.

Holy Trinity Seminary and Monastery, raised in Jordanville, New York to the Glory of God in 1928, is in dire need of financial assistance to make critical infrastructure repairs and restoration.

On the thirteenth anniversary of Bishop Basil’s Repose

Today, September 17, 2012, marks the thirteenth anniversary of the repose of His Grace, the late Bishop Basil (Rodzianko) of the OCA Diocese of San Francisco and the West. I will be attending an 8am Liturgy commemorating His Grace of blessed memory at his small apartment here in Washington, D.C. His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah has often celebrated weekday Liturgies here. His Grace peacefully reposed in this studio apartment,  a cozy place filled with books, icons, religious items, and thousands of tape cassettes of his broadcasts, which also contains a beautiful little chapel. Metropolitan Jonah will be celebrating the commemorative Liturgy this morning, and I will share your many prayers and good wishes with him.

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His Grace, the late Bishop Basil Rodzianko (May 22, 1915-September 17, 1999).

My godmother is very devoted to preserving the memory and legacy of Bishop Basil, and she has been instrumental in maintaining the Holy Archangels Foundation, an informal group which he helped organize in 1986 to assist him in his various efforts and broadcasts. This group continued assisting him in the later years of his life in carrying on his various broadcast ministries, writings, and other endeavors.

After his death, the group set to organizing and making available to the public many of Bishop Basil’s incredible sermons, brilliant audio recordings and wide-ranging thoughts on many topics, including Orthodox asceticism, contemplative prayer, the Liturgy, Orthodox history, the communist regimes, spiritual reflection, contemporary issues, personal holiness, and life in the Church. One intriguing and comprehensive result of their collaborative efforts is this beautiful web page. Included on this website is a remarkable and compelling account of Bishop Basil’s fascinating life!

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As a younger, married man living in England, then Fr. Vladimir Rodzianko gave many broadcasts with the BBC. Following his beloved wife’s death, he was tonsured as a monk.

My godmother, whom Bishop Basil as a newly consecrated bishop received into the Church, maintains the small apartment where he lived after his retirement, including the tiny, beautiful chapel where he often celebrated the divine services. While I never knew Bishop Basil in his earthly life, as many of my older friends from St Nicholas did, I have been blessed to hear and read so much of his life that I feel I have come to know him in many ways. This article is one small attempt I have made to describe, in my own words, the extraordinary breadth and impact of his long life.

Metropolitan Jonah has spoken movingly of his vivid memories of Bishop Basil, including in this video which includes his sermon at the Liturgy commemorating His Grace on the tenth anniversary of his repose in 2009 at St Nicholas Cathedral. As my godmother recorded in this article featured on the Cathedral website, His Beatitude observed about Bishop Basil that

“Ten years ago he died and was buried – and yet he is alive in our midst. . . His presence is powerful and the grace of the Holy Spirit allows us to perceive that presence – that grace that came forth from him during his life through his prayers and the grace which comes forth from him now through his prayers”.

These words embody the very fullness of our intentions when we say, in reference to our departed loved ones, “Memory eternal!” / “Вечная память!” For Bishop Basil, however, the extraordinary holiness and depth of faithfulness and wisdom which permeated his life as a monastic and a bishop call to mind another aspect of our references to our beloved ancestors and forerunners who have reposed in the Lord. These words are from the very prayers offered at the commemorative Liturgies in memory of the reposed:

“Among the spirits of the righteous perfected in faith, give rest, O Savior, to the soul of Your servant. . .”

“The righteous perfected in faith”. Many have spoken to me of the deep veneration and love they have for Bishop Basil, and, although the Orthodox Church has yet to formally canonize him as a saint, many ordinary faithful already honor him as such. What is beyond doubt is that, in his vocation as a bishop, Bishop Basil touched the lives of thousands of the faithful with his glowing countenance, demeanor, and kindness of spirit.

My godmother has recounted to me that, on the late bishop’s many visits to Russia, trips on which she often accompanied him, countless ordinary villagers upon first meeting him immediately discerned that he was a holy man. Russian babushkas in particular would exclaim, “He is with the angels!”. Most of us can only ponder what this means, to be in the presence of a living saint! I count the testimonies of those who knew Bishop Basil, especially those who were very close to him, as invaluable in preserving for the rest of us an account of this man’s extraordinary life and the path to holiness which he followed in his later years.

Bishop Basil spent the last fifteen years of his life serving at St Nicholas Cathedral at a time of tremendous growth in parish life, serving as the beloved spiritual father to many in this parish. As a retired bishop, after 1984 he concentrated his efforts on his radio broadcasts to the faithful living in the Soviet Union. My godmother and many others who knew him and frequently traveled with him in Russia have recounted that these broadcasts played a major role in the reemergence of Orthodoxy in Russian spiritual and public life following the collapse of the Communist regime.

Bishop Basil maintained his love for the radio throughout his life.

I count it among the greatest of blessings in my life that I have been able to attend these intimate Liturgies at the chapel where Bishop Basil so often served in his latter years, in the apartment where he lived and reposed. I have felt his calming, healing presence permeating the room and softening the hearts and countenances of all present.

To give you just one small sense of the extraordinary holiness and grace which sanctified and transformed this man’s life as a bishop, here is one quote from a veritable library of sermons, addresses, and special messages he recorded, which are continually being transferred to more updated electronic media files:

“When Christ promised his disciples that the Spirit of God, His Holy Spirit, would descend upon them, He called Him the Comforter. To be in the Spirit promised by Christ is to be comforted, consoled. One need not fear any kind of sorrow or surrounding evil or inner affliction when there is such consolation. But in order to come to this consolation, it is necessary to understand in the depth of one’s soul that any sorrow, any suffering, any affliction is a consequence of sin – either one’s own or another’s. And if you accept everything as your own sin, if you identify yourself with the whole of sinful humanity and understand the fall and that you deprived yourself of Paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven – first of all, you yourself – then tears of repentance will flow at once and with them, all encompassing consolation. Such a person (who has come to such repentance) becomes meek, filled with an inner calm, silence and peace. Only in such a condition is it possible to subdue surrounding evil, win people over and win over the world. ‘Acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved’ said St. Seraphim of Sarov.”

Relatives, close friends, and spiritual sons and daughters of Bishop Basil gather at his grave in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park on September 17, 2009, the tenth anniversary of his repose. Present, among others, are his niece, Matushka Anna, my godmother Marilyn Swezey, His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, Father Valery, acting dean of St Nicholas Cathedral, and his wife, Matushka Marina.

It is my hope that Bishop Basil’s legacy will continue to live on in the stories of all who knew him, and, through their efforts, that more and more people come to know of his extraordinary life. May his memory be eternal! Вечная память!

Incredible sermon on Christian joy, love, forgiveness and transformation

Video

On Sunday, May 27, with the blessing of the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, the primate of the Orthodox Church in America, His Beatitude Jonah, Metropolitan of All America & Canada, celebrated the Divine Liturgy in St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Mayfield, Pennsylvania.

This Cathedral often changed hands during past jurisdictional disputes between ROCOR and the OCA, and Metropolitan Jonah’s historic visit, marked by this incredible sermon in which he offered a heartfelt apology for offensive and impolitic statements by some of his predecessors, marked yet another positive turning point in the jurisdictions’ relations as Orthodox brethren in America.

The Metropolitan’s sermon here is of the most inspiring talks I have ever heard him give. It covers the subjects of Christian love, forgiveness of and repentance from sins, and above all, the spirit of true joy- not merely happiness or gratification- to be found in reconciliation.

This beautiful video is provided courtesy of the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), under the omophorion of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral).