metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Sermon on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of being a vicar

12 October 1975
Theme: The Church, Pastoral care   Place: London Parish   Period: 1971-1975   Genre: Sermon

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

I wish now to say a few words in English. I will repeat some of the things which I have said.


Standing here today at this gathering which is born of love, born of friendship, born of a victory won by each and all of us not only over the difficulties of the material life but of much greater difficulties of human relationships, I feel I could almost say like Abraham, looking round and seeing a vast number of his relatives and followers, “Here am I, o Lord, and the children whom Thy hast given us.”

And I thank God that our family has not decreased in these years but grown and not only in numbers but in vigour, in faithfulness to one another, in greatness of heart to bear one another’s burdens and never to be defeated by the difficulties that arise between people because we have learnt to believe in one another, to trust one another, to recognise one another completely, to accept one another even at a cost, and at time the cost might have been great.

I wonder, I marvel that after 25 years you are prepared to thank God that I came here a quarter of century ago. You might feel that I have stretched all your spiritual energies, all your patience, and yet we are here. We look at one another, we can smile at one another with joy that we have met, that God has given us to meet. How wonderful!

And I think also of the many, o how many, Russians and English people, and people born of mixed marriages who belong to the two worlds, who now rest after a long life or a painful death. But death does not separate. God is the God of the living, not of the dead. All are alive for Him and in Him. And today in this church we can rejoice that their prayers are with us, with those whom we love and whom we remember with a warm, tender, sensitive heart, those whom we only remember with our mind because they passed through our life unnoticed, and those whom we have forgotten but who do not forget us now that they are in the Kingdom of eternal and victorious love.

Let us remember them and thank God for them. Those who are ours — our parents, our relatives, our children, our fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, friends and those who, as I said, pass through our life almost unnoticed. But let us also remember in gratitude today all those who have been merciful, loving, generous to us. We can thank God for the love which we have found in this country, for shelter and protection, we can thank God for the generosity of the Anglican Church who has given us this church to worship in. And beyond this generosity how not to remember those who had built this church with their hands? How not to remember those whose faith has made this church possible before the love of their descendants or their contemporaries made it into a gift of love to strangers, strangers in the faith, strangers by blood and also to those who in the mysterious ways of God have been drawn to Orthodoxy and who are for our Western brothers an object of surprise and at time of pain. But even this pain has not deprived us of the love of those who were generous to us.

And how not to thank God with all my heart and perhaps also I hope with all your heart for the Church of Russia? We have tried ever since the revolution to achieve something which to many seems to be impossible — to belong wholeheartedly, completely, unreservedly to a Church under atheist domination, a captive Church and at the same time to be free. We have attempted and succeeded, I believe, in showing in our lives and souls that there no bounds for the Spirit, that we can be at one with the martyrs of Russia, with our brothers and sisters who are there and at the same time never be implicated in any kind of political enslavement or political action. We thank God for the freedom which we have had, but this freedom we have not won, this freedom is the/a gift of the courage, of the love and the greatness of heart of our Church at home.

When the Patriarch was keeping one of his last anniversaries I was given the privilege to speak in the presence of patriarch Alexis and I said to him that I can say nothing to praise him and thank God for all that have been done in Russia. I left that to those who together with him had borne the cross of the Church in our country. But I could in the name of many a Russian and of hundreds of non-Russians thank him and our Church that they have allowed us to be ourselves, never claimed from us to be anything but ourselves and have paid the cost for it because the cost at times has been heavy to them. Thanks be to God for these men and women, for these multitudes, for these millions who are prepared for a handful of Orthodox abroad to be considered at times as enemies with all the harsh consequences this may have in a totalitarian country. I thank God for the love of our people and our Church and hope, how I wish you to understand it and to give thanks together with me, to trust and to have faith in this Church of the martyrs and the confessors, not to be afraid, not to be ashamed, to glory indeed in the fact that we belong to it.

We have read today a passage of an Epistle which I think in so many ways applied to them and, o, how little to us, and yet to us also. “By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report, as deceivers and yet true,1” (2 Cor 6:8) and then describing what we have never endured but others have: “In much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distress, in strives, in imprisonment, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings, by pureness and knowledge, by long-suffering and kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness, as dying and behold, we live, as unknown and yet well known, as chasened, yet not killed, as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as the poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing.”

And we can say to all the people unfailingly, truthfully what we have said from the very beginning, 25 years ago, to everyone who wished us wrong, “You are not (?) in us, you are (?) in your own hearts.”2 Let us rejoice that we belong to a Church which is alive, to a Church which can give life at the cost of life by giving us her sacrificial, crucified love. And let us be worthy of it. When I look back at these 25 years how unworthy I feel of the Church that gave me birth and of you to whom I was sent. How unworthy a priest and a bishop I have been. How wonderful it is that in your long-suffering, in your patience, in your love you have made me and you have helped me to live to this day when I can say, again I look at the past, again I look at the future and again I pledge myself to be faithful as I have not been. Help me as you have done. I have come here soon after my ordination. All I have is your gift. Give me, lend me perhaps a little more patience and help me to become a servant of God. And again when we meet before the throne of God we may say, “glory to God on high.”

I would like to thank before we leave bishop Nerses of the Armenian Church who is an old friend although a very young man, for having come, for having prayed with us, for being for being a friend; and also in the person of cannon Michael Moor who has endured a long service and a long sermon to thank the archbishop of Canterbury whom he represents and who was so gracious on Friday as congratulating me on this 25th anniversary to give me the Lambeth cross which I am wearing now. In my reply I said to him that the cross belongs to the parish who has shown patience with me all these years. And if I wear it I will wear it for you.

And let us when you have received a last blessing from the Lord, let us sing for all those who have departed this life, “Eternal memory”, “Вечная память”, and then to those who are still alive, we are called by God to carry a cross to the last day of their life, at times to die under it, “many years” of courage, many years of sacrificial, crucified love and many years in that peace which the world can not give but can not take away, of that joy which is of the Lord and the Lord himself.

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