Addressed to the people of Russia after the broadcast of the Resurrection Service from the Cathedral, Ennismore Gardens, London.
To-day three events have become interwoven in a wonderful way: we are celebrating the Annunciation, we are rejoicing on the day of Christ’s Resurrection and we remember with awe the death on this day in 1925 of Tikhon, the first restored Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, who was numbered among the saints two years ago. These three events are connected with each other for us, for the whole world, but particularly, perhaps, for Russia. Tikhon was elected to the Patriarchal throne on the threshold of the most terrible events that ever touched our land, the beginning of the Revolution. He was a man of the old school; with the insight of deep holiness he discerned the ways of God; he did not rebel and he did not give in. He drew himself up to his full height in the Name of Christ, and in the face of the horror that was around him, he fearlessly delivered his episcopal message calling upon those who were ruining people’s lives with brutal cruelty, to repent; and if they did not, he excommunicated them. With deep attention he studied the mysteries of God, the ways of God on earth, and with a firm hand guided the Church through the terrifying early days of the revolution. But with his perceptive sight he knew that terrible things were still in store, and on his deathbed, almost his last words were, “Darkness, deep impenetrable darkness!” This darkness lay over Russia for more than 70 years; only now is it beginning to lighten. But even then, in those fearful days, as it says in the Gospel, the light of Christ shone in the darkness, and innumerable martyrs, innumerable witnesses of Christ, people who loved God and their neighbour more than their own lives, lived and died. And now we remember them with reverence.
But where is the Annunciation in this context? What is the place of Easter which we are celebrating? The Annunciation is a message from God telling us that this orphaned world which had lost God, or at times rejected Him, which was seeking its way with anguish, had been sought out by our Lord Himself. God became man not metaphorically but actually; the fullness of Godhead abode in Him bodily. God became as it were, part of our world, He became man and thereby what we await has already been fulfilled, and God and man have been united once and for ever. The end has been achieved, and yet it has to open itself in the life of every person. The Annunciation tells us that in answer to the longing of the whole world God came into it; but the world had to yearn for Him, to call Him, to pray that it should no longer be orphaned. Then on a certain day the All-pure Virgin was born, who by her humility, her openness to God, her unshakeable faith and the strength of her spirit, was able to call God with her whole mind and heart, her whole being, her whole body, so that God became flesh on earth. But what travail, what anguish, sorrow and suffering the earth had to undergo before this could happen.
Thus the land of Holy Russia, chained for more than 70 years cried out for the coming of the Lord, entreated that the light should shine, that Christ should have a right to inhabit the land and that His word should resound in our great open spaces. This is beginning to happen; churches are being opened, the word of God is being preached; but how much suffering has made possible this gift of God! When we speak of the Resurrection of Christ today we must remember that it was preceded by seven days of the Passion, like the seven decades through which Russia has passed. Christ is risen and we can believe that He has brought eternal triumphant life to the world. We can believe too that life will return in Russia that life will triumph, but it is already moving as melting in the rivers, unseen, but already audible and perceptible.
To-day we are celebrating the Resurrection of Christ as a feast of hope which is already fulfilled, but which we must receive, to which we must open ourselves, which we must deserve; a hope for the sake of which we may even have to lay down our lives in order that others may see the light of the Resurrection in glory on earth. What I was saying just now about the Russian land may be said about the whole world which is lying in darkness, in suffering, in sorrow, in searching and yearning, which has lost its way. The whole world is in need of that which led Christ into our midst: receptiveness, a cry to God, a longing for Him, at the same time the readiness to give our whole lives, our whole selves to His service, and if necessary — and it is always necessary — to enter into the fearful weeks of Christ’s Passion in order to deserve, not just for ourselves but for the whole world, the Passover of the Lord, the Resurrection of life, the triumph of right, of truth and of life.
Published: Newsletter № 239 1991 April