September 21, 2010


of Sainted Andrew, ArchBishop of Crete

The present feastday is for us the beginning of feastdays. Serving as boundary limit to the law and to foretypes, it at the same time serves as a doorway to grace and truth. "For Christ is the end of the law" (Rom. 10: 4), Who, having freed us from the writing, doth raise us to spirit. Here is the end (to the law): in that the Lawgiver, having made everything, hath changed the writing in spirit and doth head everything within Himself (Eph. 1: 10), enlivening the law with grace: grace hath taken the law under its dominion, and the law is become subjected to grace, such that the properties of the law not suffer reciprocal commingling, but only suchlike, that the servile and subservient (in the law) by Divine power be transmuted into the light and free (in grace), "so that we, – sayeth the Apostle, – be not enslaved to the elements of the world" (Gal. 4: 3) and be not in a condition under the slavish yoke of the writing of the law. Here is the summit of Christ's beneficence towards us! Here are the mysteries of revelation! Here is the theosis [divinisation] assumed upon humankind – the fruition worked out by the God-man.

The radiant and bright coming-down of God for people ought to possess a joyous basis, opening to us the great gift of salvation. Suchlike also is the present feastday, having as its basis the Nativity of the Mother of God, and as its purposive end – the uniting of the Word with flesh, this most glorious of all miracles, unceasingly proclaimed, immeasurable and incomprehensible. The less comprehensible it is, the more it is revealed; and the more it is revealed, the less comprehensible it is. Wherefore the present God-graced day, the first of our feastdays, shewing forth the light of virginity and as it were the crown woven from the unfading blossoms of the spiritual garden of Scripture, doth proffer creatures a common joy. Be of good cheer, – sayeth it, – behold, this is the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin and of the renewal of the human race! The Virgin is born, She groweth and is raised up and prepareth Herself to be the Mother of God All-Sovereign of the ages. All this, with the assist of David, makes it for us an object of spiritual contemplation. The Mother of God manifests to us Her God-bestown Birth, and David points to the blessedness of the human race and wondrous co-kinship of God with mankind.

And thus, truly one ought to celebrate the mystery today and to offer to the Mother of God a word by way of gift: since nothing is so pleasing to Her, as a word and praise by word. It is from here also that we receive a twofold benefit: first, we enter into the region of truth, and second, we emerge from the captivity and slavery of the written law. Howso? Obviously, when darkness vanishes, then light appears; so also here: after the law there follows the freedom of grace.

The present day solemnity is a line of demarcation, separating the truth from its prefigurative symbol, and ushering in the new in place of the old. Paul – that Divine Trumpeter of the Spirit, – exclaims thus about this: "For anyone that be in Christ, ye are remade a new creature; the old passeth away and behold all is become new (2 Cor. 5: 17); for the law hath perfected nothing adducing for a better hope, whereby we draw nigh to God" (Heb. 7: 19). The truth of grace hath shown forth brightly...

Let there now be one common festal celebration in both heaven and on earth. Let everything now celebrate, that which is in the world and that beyond the world. Now is made the created temple for the Creator of all; and creation is readied into a new Divine habitation for the Creator. Now our nature having been banished from the land of blessedness doth receive the principle of theosis and doth strive to rise up to the highest glory. Now Adam doth offer from us and for us elements unto God, the most worthy fruit of mankind – Mary, in Whom the new Adam is rendered Bread for the restoration of the human race. Now is opened the great bosom of virginity, and the Church, in the matrimonial manner, doth place upon it a pure pearl truly immaculate. Now human worthiness doth accept the gift of the first creation and returns to its former condition; the majesty darkened by formless sin, – through the conjoining by His Mother by birth "of Him Beauteous by Goodness", man receives beauty in a most excellent and God-seemly visage. And this creating is done truly by the creation, and recreation – by theosis, and theosis – by a return to the original perfection! Now a barren one is become beyond expectation a mother, and the Birth-giver hath given birth without knowing man, and She doth sanctify natural birth. Now is readied the majestied colour of the Divine scarlet-purple and the impoverished human nature is clothed in royal worthiness. Now – according to prophecy – there sprouts forth the Offshoot of David, Who, having eternally become the green-sprouting Staff of Aaron, hath blossomed forth for us with the Staff of Power – Christ. Now of Judah and David is descended a Virgin Maiden, rendering of Herself the royal and priestly worthiness of Him that hath taken on the priesthood of Aaron in the order of Melchisedek (Heb. 7: 15). Now is begun the renewal of our nature, and the world responding, assuming a God-seemly form, doth receive the principle of a second Divine creation.

The first creation of mankind occurred from the pure and unsullied earth; but their nature darkened the worthiness innate to it, they were deprived of grace through the sin of disobedience; for this we were cast out of the land of life and, in place of the delights of paradise, we received temporal life as our inheritance by birth, and with it the death and corruption of our race. All started to prefer earth to heaven, such that there remained no hope for salvation, beyond the utmost help. Neither the natural nor the written law, nor the fiery reconciliative sayings of the prophets had power to heal the sickness. No one knew, how to rectify human nature and by what means it would be most suitable to raise it up to its former worthiness, so long as God the Author of all did not deign to reveal to us another arranged and newly-constituted world, wherein is annihilated the pervasive form of the old poison of sin, and granting us a wondrous, free and perfectly dispassionate life, through our re-creation in the baptism of Divine birth. But how would this great and most glorious blessing be imparted to us, so very in accord with the Divine commands, if God were not to be manifest to us in the flesh, not subject to the laws of nature, – nor deign to dwell with us in a manner, known to Him? And how could all this be accomplished, if first there did not serve the mystery a Pure and Inviolate Virgin, Who contained the Uncontainable, in accord with the law, yet beyond the laws of nature? And could some other virgin have done this, besides She alone, Who was chosen before all others by the Creator of nature?

This Virgin is the Mother of God – Mary, the MostGlorious of God, from the womb of Whom the MostDivine issued forth in the flesh and by Whom He Himself did arrange a wondrous temple for Himself. She conceived without seed and gave birth without corruption, since that Her Son was God, though also He was born in the flesh, without mingling and without travail. This Mother, truly, avoided that which is innate to mothers but miraculously fed with milk Her Son, begotten without a man. The Virgin, having given birth to the seedlessly Conceived-One, remained a Pure Virgin, having preserved incorrupt the marks of virginity. And so in truth She is named the Mother of God; Her virginity is esteemed and Her birth-giving is glorified. God, having conjoined with mankind and become manifest in the flesh, hath granted Her an unique glory. Woman's nature suddenly is freed from the first curse, and just as the first did bring in sin, so also doth the first initiate salvation also.

But our discourse has attained its chief end, and I, celebrating now and with rejoicing sharing in this sacred feast, I greet you in the common joy. The Redeemer of the human race, – as I said, – willed to arrange a new birth and re-creation of mankind: like as under the first creation, taking dust from the virginal and pure earth, wherein He formed the first Adam, so also now, having arranged His Incarnation upon the earth, – and so to speak, in place of dust, – He chooses from out of all the creation this Pure and Immaculate Virgin and, having re-created mankind within His Chosen-One from amidst mankind, the Creator of Adam is made the New Adam, in order to save the old.

Who indeed was This Virgin and from what sort of parents did She come? Mary, the glory of all, was born of the tribe of David, and from the seed of Joakim. She was descended from Eve, and was the child of Anna. Joakim was a gentle man, pious, raised in God's law. Living prudently and walking before God he grew old without child: the years of his prime provided no continuation of his lineage. Anna was likewise God-loving, prudent, but barren; she lived in harmony with her husband, but was childless. As much concerned about this, as about the observance of the law of the Lord, she indeed was daily stung by the grief of childlessness and suffered that which is the usual lot of the childless, ‑- she grieved, she sorrowed, she was distressed, and impatient at being childless. Thus, Joakim and his spouse lamented that they had no successor to continue their line; yet the spark of hope was not extinguished in them completely: both intensified their prayer about the granting to them of a child to continue their line. In imitation of the prayer heard of Hannah (1 Kings 1: 10), both without leaving the temple fervently beseeched God that He would undo her sterility and make fruitful her childlessness. And they did not give up on their efforts, until their wish be fulfilled. The Bestower of gifts did not contemn the gift of their hope. The unceasing power came quickly in help to those praying and beseeching God, and it made capable both the one and the other to produce and bear a child. In such manner, from sterile and barren parents, as it were from irrigated trees, was borne for us a most glorious fruition – the Immaculate Virgin. The constraints of infertility were destroyed – prayer, upright manner of life, these rendered them fruitful; the childless begat a Child, and the childless woman was made an happy mother. Thus the immaculate Fruition issuing forth from the womb occurred from an infertile mother, and then the parents, in the first blossoming of Her growth brought Her to the temple and dedicated Her to God. The priest, then making the order of services, beheld the face of the girl and of those in front of and behind, and he became gladdened and joyful, seeing as it were the actual fulfillment of the Divine promise. He consecrated Her to God, as a reverential gift and propitious sacrifice – and, as a great treasury unto salvation, he led Her within the very innermost parts of the temple. Here the Maiden walked in the upright ways of the Lord, as in bridal chambers, partaking of heavenly food until the time of betrothal, which was preordained before all the ages by Him Who, by His unscrutable mercy, was born from Her, and by Him Who before all creation and time and expanse Divinely begat Him, and together with His consubstantial and co-reigning and co-worshipped Spirit, – this being One Godhead, having One Essence and Kingdom, inseparable and immutable and in which is nothing diverse, except the personal qualities. Wherefore, in solemnity and in song I do offer the Mother of the Word the festal gift; since that He born of Her hath taught me to believe in the Trinity: the Son and Word Without-Beginning hath made in Her His Incarnation; the Father begetting Him hath blessed this; the Holy Spirit hath signed and sanctified the womb which incomprehensibly hath conceived.

Now is the time to question David: in what did the God of all forswear him? Speak, O Psalmist and Prophet! He hath sworn from the fruit of my loin to sit upon my throne (Ps. 131 [132]: 11). Here in this He is forsworn and wilt not break His oath, He hath forsworn and His Word is sealed with a deed! "Once, – said he, – I forswear by My Holiness, that I lie not to David; his seed wilt prevail forever, and his throne, like the sun before Me and like the moon coursing the ages: a faithful witness also in heaven" (Ps. 88 [89]: 35-38). God hath fulfilled this oath, since it is not possible for God to lie (Heb. 6: 18). Consider this: Christ in the flesh is named my Son (Mt. 22: 42), and all nations will worship my Lord and Son (Ps. 71 [72]: 11), seeing him sit upon a virginal throne! Here also is the Virgin, from Whose womb the Praeternal One issued forth, incarnated at the end of the ages and renewing the ages, likewise sprung forth from my loins! All this is so!

People of God, holy nation, sacred gathering! Let us revere our paternal memory; let us extol the power of the mystery! Each of us, in the measure given by grace, let us offer a worthy gift for the present feast. Fathers – a prosperous lineage; mothers – fine children; the unbearing – the not-bearing of sin; virgins – a twofold prudence, of soul and of body; betrothed – praiseworthy abstinence. If anyone of you be a father, let him imitate the father of the Virgin; and if anyone be without child – let them make harvest of fruitful prayer, cultivating a life pleasing to God. The mother, feeding her children, let her rejoice together with Anna, raising her Child, given to her in infertility through prayer. She that is barren, not having given birth, lacking the blessing of a child, let her come with faith to the God-given Offshoot of Anna and offer there her barrenness. The virgin, living blamelessly, let her be a mother by discourse, adorning by word the elegance of soul. For a betrothed – let her offer mental sacrifice from the fruits of prayer. All together rich and poor, lads and maidens, old and young (Ps. 48: 2, 148: 12), priests and levites – let all together keep the feast in honour of the Maiden, the Mother of God and the Prophetess: from Her hath issued forth the Prophet, foretold of by Moses, Christ God and Truth (Deut. 18: 15). Amen.

September 18, 2010

Interview with Abbot Seraphim (Voepel)

Holy Cross Monastery in West Virginia has become one of the most rapidly growing monastic communities in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Media Office correspondents spent a week living amongst the monastics in order to gain a better understanding of the daily life of monks. Reader Peter Lukianov met with the deputy abbot of the monastery, Abbot Seraphim (Voepel), for an interview on the process of joining the monastery and the the spiritual impact the monastery has on its pilgrims.asv.lg.jpg (70338 bytes)

- Having spent a week living with the monastics of this sacred community, I cannot help but notice the overwhelming presence of young novices and monastics. It is hard to believe that so many young men choose to join the monastery in a country such as ours, where everything is in abundance and life is very comfortable. Why are so many young men abandoning the secular world and fleeing to the monastery?
On one hand, what you are saying is true, there are lots of young men joining the monastery, but on the other hand, look at the size of the United States. If this were really a Christian country, we would have hundreds of monasteries.

When I look around at our contemporary society, at the abundance and luxury we live in, I am amazed that anyone can find their way out of all this to the monastic life. Our young people have been raised in a society that has developed the pursuit of pleasure to a degree unheard of in any previous society. I don’t think even pagan Rome can hold a candle to some of the things going on in our society today. Just look at the corruption that can freely enter a home through the internet. Look at the use of drugs in our elementary schools and the alarming degree of promiscuity found among high school and college students. Look at the high percentage of broken marriages and the sad effects this has on the children.

Most of our young people really are seeking something higher, something more spiritual, but there is no one to guide them, so they simply follow the crowd. After a while, some of these young men grow tired and weary of all this pursuit of pleasure, and in their hunger for something more deeply satisfying, they turn to God with all their hearts, their broken and darkened hearts. And God, who has placed this desire in their hearts, comes to them like the father with his prodigal son. He runs to them with His arms outstretched, He embraces them and binds up their wounds and consoles them with His grace. Then through repentance He leads them on the path He has chosen for them and this path is often the path of monasticism.

asv2.lg.jpg (67063 bytes)- As the spiritual father of the community, what do you look for in a monastery applicant? What can get one turned away? 
Most of all, we look for a spirit of sincerity, humility, and repentance. Men enter monastic life because they want to seek God above everything else, but how they have arrived at this place in their spiritual journey varies greatly with each man. Some come from pious homes where they were taught to pray as little children and to attend church services at an early age. Choosing a monastic life for these men almost seems natural. Others come from homes where they were taught nothing about God. They never attended church services and followed a very secular lifestyle. These men sometimes reach a stage where they realize something is wrong, something is missing, and they begin to sincerely search for a truer and deeper meaning and purpose for their life. It is this sincerity and repentance that we look for in a candidate.

- Can you explain the process that a man must go through to enter Holy Cross Monastery?

First, he would write an introductory letter telling us about himself, his education, work experience, and especially his spiritual development. Then we would encourage him to come for a visit and live in the monastery for a few days and discuss his possible vocation. If this initial contact goes well, then we would ask his pastor or spiritual father for a letter of recommendation. This would then be followed by a longer visit, perhaps a few weeks or a month. If all this goes well, then we would allow him to come to the monastery as a candidate. After a few months as a candidate, he would be blessed to wear the black cassock for church services and meals. After a few more months, if all goes well, he may write a petition to Bishop George and ask to be made a novice. If the Bishop blesses, then he would be clothed as a novice with the cassock, belt, and skoufa. After this point, he would then wear his monastic clothing at all times.

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After three years of novitiate, he could then petition to be made a rassophore monk. If his petition is accepted, then the bishop would tonsure him and cloth him in the rassa and klobuk (cowl). After a period of time (this can vary from a few months to a lifetime), the rassophor monk can petition to make vows as a full monk and be tonsured to the Lesser Schema. If his petition is accepted, then in a beautiful ceremony where he enters the church clothed in a white baptismal robe, he makes his vows before the bishop, is tonsured, given a new name, and clothed in the full garments of a monk, cassock, rassa, paramon, mantia (mantle) and klobuk.

- What are some of the challenges that newcomers face upon entering the monastery?
Perhaps the greatest difficulty for a newcomer is the kind of self-sacrificing that comes from living in community. If a man is really seeking God, then the words of Our Savior will challenge him: "If you want to be my disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me." Without this dying to self, this humility, he will not be able to persevere in the monastery.

- What are some of the major misconceptions people have about Holy Cross Monastery and the monastic life in general?

Many people think that monks are living saints, angels in the flesh, but this is simply not true. Monks are men who are called by God to be like the angels, in that they seek God and worship Him above all else. The monk must struggle with the help of God to be a man of prayer and a man of faith. The monk is only a man; even though he is called by God to be like the angels, he nevertheless falls down and then he gets back up again. This process of falling down and getting up is the spiritual struggle through which each monk goes in his journey towards union with Christ.

- One would have to be spiritually blind not to notice that the world around us is rapidly spiraling out of control. Secularism, modernism, and liberalism are eating away at the Christian roots of this great nation and many of us find ourselves feeling hopeless. Turn on any news channel and you will see that there is a sort of hidden persecution of Christians. The Evil one is clever in his attacks on those who confess Christ, and although we rarely see outright violence, a battle is most certainly raging on. We find it increasingly difficult to pray because the troubles of this world weigh greatly on the souls of Orthodox Christians. After spending several days in this holy place, one does not wish to return to the world, because the soul yearns to be with God and it is difficult to maintain a relationship with Christ in the secular world. What advice do you give departing pilgrims upon their return to the world? Is it possible to maintain a monastic spirit while living in the secular world?

What you are saying appears to be sadly true; the contemporary world has become hostile to true Christian living. We feel this even within the monastery. Sincere modern Christians must seek refuge in prayer, both liturgical and private. There is no substitute for this. If we are not praying every day from our heart, then we will be defeated. Sometimes modern Christians think that the spiritual life is just another self-help program they can try out; this is absolutely untrue. The Orthodox spiritual life is about a relationship with the God-man Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things. The spiritual life is about entering into His presence and with humility and repentance asking His mercy and guidance. Without this, we cannot have the strength or wisdom to resist the powerfully seductive secular world around us.

asv4.lg.jpg (39577 bytes)- Sometimes as Orthodox Christians, we feel that we are not of this world and that we are not relevant to it. How should we react to the changes that are happening around us, specifically the various and increasingly successful liberal and progressive movements, without losing ourselves and our inner spiritual peace?

I understand and share in your concern, but the only answer is the one St. Seraphim of Sarov gave: "Acquire the peace of God in your heart and a thousand souls around you will be saved." You as an individual Orthodox Christian cannot change the course of the world, but you can change yourself. It is, in fact, easier to think about changing the world than to try to change ourselves. If we find the world around us increasingly filled with hatred, then we must try to love; if we find the world running after material goods and pleasure, then we must try to live a simpler life; if we find the world has become preoccupied with carnal things, then we must try to be pure and chaste.

The inner peace that Christ gives us is not the peace of the world. It is not dependent upon proper social conditions or environmental factors. The early Christians would walk into the arena peacefully singing hymns as the lions attacked them. In the lives of the early martyrs, we read over and over again how bystanders and even Roman soldiers were converted by witnessing the firm faith and peaceful resolve of these early martyrs.

September 17, 2010

A Convenient Excuse

The assumption that every offense could cause violence insults Muslims.

Is Michael Bloomberg to blame for the deaths of the 18 Muslim men in Indian-controlled Kashmir who rioted over reports that someone in America burned the Koran?

Let’s think it through.

As I explained at length in an earlier column, I believe that the New York City mayor could have stopped the Park51 (“Ground Zero mosque”) project months ago, long before it became a national story. It would have taken some wheeling and dealing and a few phone calls. Instead, in his grandiose pomposity, he went a different way.

Even if you don’t buy that Bloomberg could have nipped this noxious weed in the bud, Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz is surely correct that this wouldn’t be nearly the controversy it is today if only Bloomberg had been capable of getting the “Freedom Tower” built in a timely manner.

Enter storefront pastor Terry Jones, who introduced the idiotic idea of Koran-burning to the American people. He clearly got his inspiration from the debate over the Ground Zero mosque. He chickened out, but not before he inspired others to do something similar. Two pastors in Tennessee held a private Koran-burning, and a New Jersey transit worker tore up and burned a few pages (and was fired for it). These acts, plus the media coverage of Jones’s planned stunt, sparked the deadly riots in Kashmir.

So, should we put Bloomberg in the dock? Recall him from office? Drop him, bound and gagged, into downtown Lahore?

Alas, no. While we should criticize him for his thumbless grasp of church-state issues and his megalomaniacal incompetence, he’s not to blame for the actions of others. And it isn’t fair to hold people legally accountable for the evil or misguided deeds of others.

And the same basically goes for Jones. His plan to burn the Koran was stupid, irresponsible, and repugnant, but it’s not his fault that there are a significant number of Muslim men who are not only ready but eager to riot and kill in response to insults to Islam.

If you deny this, you are basically denying the humanity of Muslims. We take it as a given in this country that not only are all men created equal, but that each individual is responsible for his own actions. Each man and woman is a captain of his or her own self.

To say that Muslims have no choice in the matter, that they must act like animals, is to say that they are animals. If you tease a bear and he kills you, your stupidity is to blame. If you tease a man and he kills you, the murderer is to blame.

Again, I think burning the Koran is reprehensible. And I could live with a local law that banned Koran-burning (and flag-burning, Bible-burning, Torah-burning, etc.) because I think communities should be able to set standards of decency. But that hardly settles things. It’s easy to condemn Koran-burning. What about those Danish cartoons of Mohammed (that Yale University won’t even reproduce in a book on the controversy)? What about highbrow novels like The Satanic Verses? When Pope Benedict XVI delivered his Regensburg address in 2006, he suggested that Islam had a link to violence. In response, many Muslims rioted. It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad.

When Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer was asked in an interview about Koran-burning, he brought up former Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous comment that the First Amendment “doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. . . . Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?”

There are a number of grave problems with the crowded-theater cliché. First, you can — even must — yell “fire” in a crowded theater. It just has to be the truth.

But more to the point, fires are not human beings. Fire has no choice but to burn because that is what fire does. Humans have choices. Yet in this formulation (from which Breyer has somewhat retreated), Muslims are akin to soulless, unthinking flames. Taken seriously, this comparison suggests rational people have every reason to fear Muslims in much the same way they fear fire.

There are complex issues here. But the simple truth is the Islamist extremists who behead and riot do have a choice. They want to murder. What they want is an excuse, and they’ll find one no matter what.

– Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

September 16, 2010

Holy New Hieromartyr Maxim Sandovich



A 2Oth Century Carpatho-Russian Martyr for Orthodoxy

The Orthodox movement in Carpatho-Russia had deep roots and causes. The infamous union with Rome did not originate with the masses of the common people, but had been imposed through the machinations of the urban merchant class and a small minority of the clergy who greatly desired the same feudal rights that their Catholic counterparts enjoyed. Thus, these two classes of people betrayed their Orthodox princes and the faithful. The two religions struggled with fire and sword, but even after the victory of the Unia, Orthodoxy was not so quickly forgotten. To counterbalance Catholic influence and to further deceive the people, the Uniates carefully preserved the purity of the Eastern Orthodox ritual, considering that a policy of slow and gradual latinization would be far more successful in the long run than one of outright imposition of the Roman ritual. Yet the cultural inclination of the Carpatho-Russian people towards the Russian mainstream, which expressed itself in undisguised sympathy for Russia and all that was Russian, could not be silenced even in the province of religion. In the eyes of most prominent Galicians and Carpatho Russians the Unia was but the instrument and means employed to sunder the one Russian family and they directed their gaze towards Orthodoxy as the ancient and original faith of their people when Holy Rus had been one. This inclination which was distinctively Russian was a crucial element in the Carpatho-Russian reaction against the "Ukrainianism" artfully contrived by the Germans as a weapon against the pan-Slavic movement that threatened their domination of the area. Even among the Carpatho-Russian Uniate clergy who perpetuated the idea of the union there were sympathies towards Or thodoxy. These sympathies were so intense that the very concept of "Catholic" was considered a sort of heresy. Indeed, their concept of the union was reduced to a purely jurisdictional recognition of the primacy of the Pope of Rome.

Orthodox sympathies were characteristic of the people of Carpatho Russia, and to a lesser extent of the Galicians. Alarmed by the growth of these sympathies and correctly concluding that this growth was being directed toward rapprochement with Russia, the Austro-Hungarian authorities began to eradicate the "Russian" sedition. Unprecedented repressions were imposed upon the Russophile clergy, both Uniate and Orthodox. The area teamed with informers. Not only the gendarmes, village clerks and sheriffs, but also teachers and some of the clergy denounced their neighbors. It reached the point where, in some areas of Carpatho-Russia, the entire educated class - priests, lawyers, judges, teachers, high school and university students, as well as peasants - were subjected to mass arrests. The prisons were quickly overflowing with those accused of treason.

In accordance with a directive issued by Vienna, the Uniate Metropolitan of Lvov, threatened with the growth of Orthodoxy, quickly shifted his ecclesiastical policy to one of isolation from all that was Orthodox and Russian. A Ukrainian Uniate ritual was concocted which differed significantly from Orthodox ritual. The names of saints especially revered in Russia were deleted from the calendar. The veneration of wonderworking icons of the All-holy Theotokos which had manifested themselves in Russia (e.g. the Iveron, Kazan and Pochaev icons) were proscribed. The word "Orthodox" was replaced in the divine services with "Catholic." Candidates suspected of harboring Russophile sympathies were refused admittance to the Uniate seminaries, acceptance being limited exclusively to those admittedly Ukrainian in outlook who were prepared to submit a written oath of hatred for Russia.

Throughout the Carpathian region a tremendous upheaval shook the parishes. Uniate priests of Russian persuasian were driven from their posts, their families were cast out into the streets, and few were the courageous souls who dared to defy the authorities by sheltering the homeless. The parishes were then turned over to newly-ordained priests who had received their education at the hands of the Jesuits of the Basilian College. The imposition of the new Ukrainian Uniate ritual was entrusted to the Jesuit-educated monks of the 'Order of St. Basil the Great." But if life had become so difficult for the Uniate Russophile clergy, it was far worse for the few Orthodox priests and their families in Carpatho-Russia and Galicia. Let us examine the case of one such priest, Fr. Maxim Sandovich, of blessed memory.

Fr. Maxim was born in Galicia in the Horlitsky District, the son of Timofei and Christina Sandovich of the village of Zdyna. His father, Timofei, was a prosperous farmer who also served as cantor (psalomschik) in the local parish church. Maxim, having completed four years of study at the gymnasium (high school) in Novy Sanch, stole across the border into Russia and entered the novitiate at the great Pochaev Lavra in Volynia. Subsequently he attended the Orthodox seminary at Zhitomir, and after marrying a young Orthodox woman named Pelagia, was ordained in 1911 to the holy priesthood and returned to his homeland. His pastoral and missionary service was not to last for long, for the militia were ever vigilant; he was denounced by a Ukrainian teacher, a certain Leos, and the Austrian gendarmes carried him off in chains to a prison in Lvov in 1912. He was to languish in prison without trial or inquest for two years, enduring indescribably horrible conditions and abuse. Finally, on the very eve of World War I he was released for lack of evidence.

Fr. Maxim returned again to his home in the village of Hrab, but was not fated to remain there long. The first shots fired in the new war were the heralds of a new repression of Russophile Carpatho-Russians. On August 4,1914, the militia arrested the young priest, his father, mother, brother and wife and after much abuse dragged them off in shackles to the district prison in Horlitsk. The road was rough and the prisoners were forced to travel on foot, prodded on by the bayonets of the gendarmes. Words cannot convey the suffering of the innocent Sandovich family.

Two days passed in prison, and Sunday, August 6th, dawned. Having rison from his bunk before the light of day Fr. Maxim read his morning prayers and three akathists. Then he stood motionless, lost in thought, gazing out the little window of his cell, trying to catch a glimpse of his wife or one of his relatives. They had all been imprisoned in different cells and were denied permission to see each other. The silence of the grave lay on the gloomy building, but beyond the walls the noise of a crowd could be heard.

What could this portend? Could they have brought in some new "spies"? Perhaps they had caught some new deserters the terrors of war for many are hard to bear. Suddenly a loud thud on the prison's black gates broke the priest's reverie. It was not yet six o'clock. A mustachioed German captain from Linz, Dietrich, a man with a reputation for cruelty and sadism, entered the prison compound with two soldiers and four gendarmes. They were followed close behind by the prison wardens, various civil servants, officers and a small group of curious ladies. This entourage was headed by Pan Mitshka, the starosta of the Horlitsky District. The order was given for the warden to bring Fr. Maxim forth from his cell.

Silence fell. Two soldiers led the twenty-eight year old Orthodox priest from the prison and suddenly he realized where it was they were taking him. "Be so good as not to hold me. I will go peacefully wherever you wish," he said humbly, and with the dignity that becomes a true shepherd of souls he walked to the sight of his final torments. The murmuring of the crowd and the venomous glances they threw the "traitor" affected his courageous bearing not in the least. He walked as befits a follower of Christ, calmly, with measured gait, to the fateful wall.

Again silence reigned. An execution was to be carried out in the name of the "apostolic" emperor - the execution of a Russian priest on Russian land! Captain Dietrich, the hero of the day, ripped the cross from Fr. Maxim's chest, cast it to the ground at the priest's feet and trampled it under foot; he then tied the prisoner's hands behind his back and bound his eyes with a black kerchief. "You do these things needlessly. I have no intention of running away." The captain laughed diabolically and with a piece of white chalk drew a line across the priest's chest on his black riassa as a target for the riflemen. Then he arranged the executioners - two gendarmes on each side. The two soldiers, heavily armed, stood only three paces from the defenseless man.

An even more profound stillness descended upon the scene. Starosta Mitshka took a blue paper from his briefcase and read the death sentence. A short command was uttered by the captain; the sabre was raised; when it was lowered the carbine rifles sounded. The echo of the shots reverberated through the back corridors of the prison, and again the silence of the cemetery ripped the prison courtyard. Across this silence the voice of Fr. Maxim was heard distinctly: "Long live the Russian people!" he cried, leaning his head against the prison wall. "Long live the Holy Orthodox Faith!" he continued, his voice becoming weaker. "Long live Slavism!" he finished, bearly audible. These were his final words. Wracked with the throws of death, his powerful frame slid down the wall to the flagstones of the courtyard. One of the gendarmes approached and ended the priest's sufferings with three shots from his revolver; the priests brains splattered against the prison wall. His aged father and mother both watched the heroic death of their son in silence, but Pelagia, his wife, wept inconsolably in her cell; and when the shots that brought an end to her young husband's life rang out, she fell senseless to the ground. Thus died Fr. Maxim Sandovich, a modern martyr for Holy Orthodoxy.


Historical Truth, Simeon Vityarevsky (Wilkes-Barre, Pa: Svit Press, 1936), pp.79-82.

Terezin and Talerof, V.R. Vavrik (pub. Archpriest R.N. Samilo, 1966), pp.20-24.

September 10, 2010

The Monk Moses Murin the Black

Commemorated on August 28

The Monk Moses Murin the Black lived during the IV Century in Egypt. He was an Ethiopian, and he was black of skin and therefore called "Murin" (meaning "like an Ethiopian"). In his youth he was the slave of an important man, but after he committed a murder, his master banished him, and he joined in with a band of robbers. Because of his mean streak and great physical strength they chose him as their leader. Moses with his band of brigands did many an evil deed – both murders and robberies, so much so that people were afraid even at the mere mention of his name. Moses the brigand spent several years leading suchlike a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, leaving his band of robbers and going off to one of the wilderness monasteries. And here for a long time he wept, beseeching that they admit him amidst the number of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance; but the former robber was not to be driven away nor silenced, in demanding that they should accept him. In the monastery the Monk Moses was completely obedient to the hegumen and the brethren, and he poured forth many a tear, bewailing his sinful life. After a certain while the Monk Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent the time in prayer and the strictest of fasting in a very austere lifestyle. One time 4 of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of the Monk Moses and he, not having lost his great physical strength, he tied them all up and taking them over his shoulder, he brought them to the monastery, where he asked of the elders what to do with them. The elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, – they themselves followed his example: they repented and became monks. And later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about the repentance of the Monk Moses, then they too gave up their brigandage and became fervent monks.

The Monk Moses did not quickly become free from the passions. He went often to the monastery hegumen, Abba Isidor, seeking advice on how to be delivered from the passions of profligacy. Being experienced in the spiritual struggle, the elder taught him never to overeat of food, to be partly hungry whilst observing the strictest moderation. But the passions would not cease for the Monk Moses in his dreams. Then Abba Isidor taught him the all-night vigil. The monk stood the whole night at prayer, not being on bended knees so as not to drop off to sleep. From his prolonged struggles the Monk Moses fell into despondency, and when there arose thoughts about leaving his solitary cell, Abba Isidor instead strengthened the resolve of his student. In a vision he showed him many a demon in the west, prepared for battle, and in the East a still greater quantity of holy Angels, likewise readied for fighting. Abba Isidor explained to the Monk Moses, that the power of the Angels would prevail over the power of the demons, and in the long struggle with the passions it was necessary for him to become completely cleansed of his former sins.

The Monk Moses undertook a new effort. Making the rounds by night of the wilderness cells, he carried water from the well to each brother. He did this especially for the elders, who lived far off from the well and who were not easily able to carry their own water. One time, kneeling over the well, the Monk Moses felt a powerful blow upon his back and he fell down at the well like one dead, laying there in that position until dawn. Thus did the devils take revenge upon the monk for his victory over them. In the morning the brethren carried him to his cell, and he lay there a whole year crippled up. Having recovered, the monk with firm resolve confessed to the hegumen, that he would continue to asceticise. But the Lord Himself put limits to this struggle of many years: Abba Isidor blessed his student and said to him, that the profligate passions had already gone from him. The elder commanded him to commune the Holy Mysteries and in peace to go to his own cell. And from that time the Monk Moses received from the Lord the power over demons.

Accounts about his exploits spread amongst the monks and even beyond the bounds of the wilderness. The governor of the land wanted to see the saint. Having learned about this, the Monk Moses decided to hide away from any visitors and he departed his own cell. Along the way he met up with servants of the governor, who asked him, how to get to the cell of the wilderness-dweller Moses. The monk answered them: "Go on no further to this false and unworthy monk". The servants returned to the monastery, where the governor was waiting, and they conveyed to him the words of the elder they had chanced upon. The brethren, hearing a description of the elder's appearance, all as one acknowledged that they had come upon the Monk Moses himself.

Having spent many a year at monastic exploits, the Monk Moses was ordained deacon. The bishop attired him in white vesture and said: "Abba Moses is now entirely white". The saint answered: "Vladyka, what makes it purely white – the outer or the inner?" Through humility the saint reckoned himself unworthy to accept the dignity of deacon. One time the bishop decided to test him and he bid the clergy to drive him out of the altar, whilst reviling him for being an unworthy black-Ethiopian. With full humility the monk accepted the abuse. Having put him to the test, the bishop then ordained the monk to be presbyter. And in this dignity the Monk Moses asceticised for 15 years and gathered round himself 75 disciples.

When the monk reached age 75, he forewarned his monks, that soon brigands would descend upon the skete and murder all that were there. The saint blessed his monks to leave in good time, so as to avoid the violent death, His disciples began to beseech the monk to leave together with them, but he replied: "I many a year already have awaited the time, when upon me there should be fulfilled the words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, did speak: "All, who take up the sword, shalt perish by the sword" (Mt. 26: 52). After this seven of the brethren remained with the monk, and one of these hid not far off during the coming of the robbers, The robbers killed the Monk Moses and the six monks that remained with him. Their death occurred in about the year 400.

translator Fr. S. Janos.