by Metropolitan Antoniy (Khrapovitskiy)

Translation and notes by Edvin Buday

While we conclude our prayer about our comrades who died for their love of the fatherland and begin our hymn to our heavenly patron, the holy Archistrategos Michael [1], let us focus our thoughts on the meaning of this event for the life of our national union [2].

The national spirit, or nationalism, is for the other modern tribes of Europe the prevailing principle of their social and political life, or, to express myself in a lay manner, it is their political axiom that all influential political parties try to base themselves on. In our case, however, this principle must conquer a right to acknowledgement, because its opposite of cosmopolitan imitation has already a long time ago captured the minds of Russian society and torn them away from the people; as a consequence, the apparent return by our liberal parties to national principles was also an imitation of Western polities.

Those national unions that appeared on the foundation of extended historical lines of popular life, conservative and patriotic, are impregnated with an entirely different spirit. The essential difference between Russian patriotism (and the patriotism of Eastern peoples and cultures in general) from the patriotism of Western tribes and states that developed on the basis of Roman paganism is, in essence, that for the latter the self-preservation and external strengthening of the state or tribe is the final goal of desires, the highest aim of their activities. Is this a lofty goal? What is it but expanded selfishness, but herd egoism? What is the deeper sense of fighting for the strength and dominance of the Czechs among the Germans or the Spanish over the Portuguese when both peoples have the same religion and the same culture?

Working and fighting for one of them against the other just because something is mine, and something else is not mine: sometimes this really is only natural, but there is nothing lofty, inspiring, or holy here. How is this battle different from the earlier confrontations of the Big Okhta with the Small Okhta? [3] Why should I fight for that group of people, who are only differentiated from their and my opponents by the fact that they speak the same tongue as I do? Why am I not duty-bound to unite with those people who are like me, for example, in appearance? Why shouldn’t all snub-nosed people, all gingers of the world etc. unite instead of the Swiss and the Belgians? They will say: they have common interests, and they [the snub-nosed people and gingers] have nothing except physical resemblance. This is through, although even then it is not always so; but in such a case, do not try to give your Western patriotism an ethical or moral character, but put it on the same level as any stock company or tradesman’s union.

The Russian people has not loved and does not continue to love its fatherland in the same way. He does not think of his country or himself as the goal of his activities; instead, his goal is to serve as a force for another, higher aim, a holy, Divine and world-wide one. By carrying within itself an unshakable faith in the intact preservation of the teachings of Christ, the Russian people thus protected and defended their country with such self-sacrifice as the repository of Divine truth and as the servant of evangelical piety: not itself, not its prosperity, but that divine treasure that was entrusted to it, and its safekeeping and expansion is seen by the Russian people as the highest guide of their private, social, and political lives. Russian, popular self-consciousness is not a racial or tribal consciousness, but a confessional, religious consciousness. If you were to begin to convince the Russian of the necessity to respect the Jews just because the Most Holy Virgin, the holy apostles and the prophets were Jews and not Russian, what answer will you receive? That is not true, he will say: “it was a long time ago since the Jews were Russian.” He knows very well that the ancient Jews did not speak Russian and did not know of the Russians, but he considers them to be his ancestors and himself to be their descendant precisely because of his confessional self-consciousness. And he is right, my dear listeners. Yes, do not be surprised: he feels and speaks in accordance with the word of Christ, which took away the right of descent from Abraham from the apostate Jews (John 8:39) [4] and put many peoples in their stead (Matt. 8:11) [5]; and did not the Forerunner of Christ say the same (Matt. 3:9) [6], along with the apostle Paul, who emphatically said: “Understand than, that the faithful are the sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7; compare Rom. 4:16).

I will tell you something even more significant about Russian patriotism. In the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, every Sunday an akathist [7] to the Holy Virgin is read, after which an inspired prayer of thanks is sung, in which the Mother of God is praised for Her defence of Her kingly city (i.e. Constantinople) from the advance of the northern pagan barbarians, “from the Scythian warlord who is like the cunning boar, from the representative of the devil, from the vainglorious khagan… and may their many warriors be drowned and may their boats at sea be torn asunder through rains from heaven”. What is this about? About the Greek victory over the Russians in the second half of the 9th century.

It is clear, that our people do not see the ancient Russian pagans as its forefathers, but the Greek Christians; their enemies became our enemies. It is clear that such a people are not accepting of a purely racial nationalism; it is clear, that the only union that can truly be called national is that union of the Russian people which, like the union of the Archistrategos Michael, abuts its religious, oecumenical-ecclesiastical patriotism. Such a patriotism is wide, such a communion is limitless! We have just now prayed for our dead… for us they are faithful patriots and alive. Their death is the beginning of a new, better life, our prayerful exclamations bring their souls joy. We will not even say as the old poet did [8]:

Do not say in sadness: they are gone,
But say instead in gratitude: they were.

No, they have not simply ‘been’, but they are with us now! It is only for purely political persons and sad Westerners that death ends all meaning. For them, only life has value, and activities are measured by the capricious inclination of temporary success; it is only to them that the words of another great poet refer [9]:

O men, pitiful breed worthy of tears and laughter!
Seers of the temporary, worshippers of success!

For our cause, for the reestablishment of social principles and popular buttresses in life neither the loss of political influence nor death itself can be check on the spiritual growth of the Russian cause, if only we fight for it honestly and harmoniously. We are not afraid of death, because our cause is in a union with the dead, heaven, and the invincible angels. Our treasure is in heaven (Luke. 12:33); that is where our true citizenship is (Phil. 3:20), and here we are but reflections of it who try to acquire and, as far as our powers allow, plant it in social life.

And our efforts are not in vain. Do not be bothered by the fact that the overwhelming majority of our unions consist of the common people. We remember the word of the Scripture that was aimed at the first Christians: “For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence” (I Cor. I, 26:29).

The history of two millennia was also created by the first Christians. But could the arrogant Romans have foreseen this? In their eyes, the first Christians were a pitiful crowd of the poor, homeless ragamuffins, defenceless slaves, and insignificant dreamers that could not even defend their brothers from the harsh tortures of the headsman. And now the whole world knows that they were a light to the world and the salt of the earth, whose bones, thrown to the wind by their executioners, are now reverently kissed by kings as a very great sanctity. Our Russian forefathers were also held in low regard by the powerful Tatars, but their empire, which was not founded on the victory of virtue, also disappeared without a trace just like the Roman Empire, and the patience, prayers, and tears of the Russians built a massive empire.

So, let none call us dreamers who chase after shadows. It is not a dream, but the world’s greatest state that was built precisely on such spiritual values, on such an ecclesiastic, confessional patriotism of Russian tsar, Russian monks, soldiers and civilians. On the contrary, the frenetic quest for success in the current political battle, temporary exaltation filled with fears for both oneself and one’s success, and lastly deep and long oblivion, – glory and dishonour, happiness and hopeless sadness: this is the fate of those dreamers who do not have faith in our covenants, which were revealed to us in the Gospel. They are chasing a lie, and it is lies that they sow in the minds of others.

For example, they love to talk about the freedom of the individual, but their views on life, their affairs lay bare their servile, slavish souls. They are entirely powerless in the arena of free, direct influence on social life. Here they can do nothing but destroy, corrupt, and make mischief. They can only express their success by way of those external legitimations of political life through which they manage to focus all injustices of life on the sorrow and destruction of Russia, and, in order to hide their total inability to act on mores, they cunningly fused the concepts of civil society, public development, and common interest into the concept of political life, the development of the state etc., thereby showing how little right they have to preach freedom if they do not acknowledge any undertaking which does not have a policeman with a delivery book standing behind it. These are not the views and methods of acting of truly national unions and their representatives. By not rejecting the branches of political (i.e. coercive) life like L. Tolstoy does and by not refusing to serve within their power, Russian patriots know that governmental action is only stable when it meets a sturdy everyday foundation, corresponding to its presumptions. They know, that the true benefactors of the people are those who can directly act on the depths of his spirit, those who directly influence the daily life of society and the people, its ideas, its morals. They know, that it is not government legislature, but personal and public conviction, free enthusiasm, free achievements that create those lofty manifestations of the spirit like science, poetry, painting, architecture, and music that are reflected in daily life; they provide the government only with external, partial accomplishment of its manifestations… They know that stronger and more superior than all these manifestations of human genius on daily life acts religious faith, that it is through this that holds fast and is created the life of all peoples of the world and that, truly, its good movers and not its destroyers can only be those who in an equal measure take part in this mysterious communion with the Godhead, this tie to heaven that is beyond doubt, a tie that was so rightly and reverentially placed on the banner of our national union, which thereby dedicated itself to the Heavenly Host and the Archistrategos Michael.

Thus, by calling on them to pray for us and our cause and raising our spirits to their holy and blessed lives that are dedicated to praising the Lord and invisibly helping people in their battles with sin and demons, we bravely march to battle, all the while not shrinking from the feasible strengthening and defence of the ancient beginnings of Russian life through government laws, but also not falling into lamentation in those cases where our (empowered) accomplices fail, seeing as apart from government legislation our spiritual communion with our great people through the Divine Martyr and His holy angels gives us a wide access to permanent, direct influence on public morals and life through the living word, through the press, through charity, educational, and economic institutions, through brave example, through selfless grace and encouragement. This is the broad and varied career of the Union of the Archangel Michael! This is why it received such a good response, why so many local organisations from all over our native land flocked to it! This is what awakened and drew distant Siberia here, and even foggy Petersburg (a far harder task). We ourselves need to tightly hold on to this spirit; we must not forget transcendence above all other moral values; we must acknowledge that there is no earthly death for them, for they draw life from the heavens themselves. This is where the holy angels will come to aid us from, and this is where those confederates and friends who died for faith, Tsar, and fatherland will rejoice in our loyalty, and this is where we will cross over too if we meet a similar fate; a fate that none of us fear, but many jealously desire.

We know that our battle is not over. The armed insurrection against the external integrity of the state has been squashed, but the incomparably more damaging destruction of the internal content of Russian life continues, and it is because of this internal content that the insurrectionists hold a special hatred for government power, seeing as it is precisely this power that protects it. Verily, we see the continuation of the destruction of the holy faith, public morals, Russian truthfulness, Russian purity, patience, and all-encompassing forgiveness; the hearts of schoolchildren are twisted, the minds of the youth are poisoned, the ties of sacred marriage are being trampled underfoot, burning hatred for fatherland and Church is sown, attempts are being made to weaken and disassemble our army.

This is the main goal of this misanthropic revolution! This is what we are marching forward to fight under the patronage of the Archistrategos Michael. Who is capable of such a fight apart from those who honestly and genially have faith and love, and pray, and fight their passions, who are not afraid of death, who are disgusted by earthly happiness, who love our Rus, our ancient, national Holy Rus! Such a man will become a victor: he will not betray his banner, even if he remained alone with it in the whole world. But he will not remain alone, because the eternal presence that was promised by Christ to His Church; what is more, all the good that burns in the hearts of Its workers becomes part of Its treasury as an efficacious force for both their contemporaries and future generations. May the angels of God help us on this earth, and may the Lord have mercy on those who have left us and spilled their blood in the name of holy convictions. Amen.

Translator’s notes:

[1]: Archistrategos (αρχιστρατηγός) is a Greek title meaning “commander in chief” or “supreme strategist”. It is a common appellation of the Archangel Michael in Eastern Orthodoxy.
[2]: This union being the Archangel Michael Russian National Union. It was a product of a leadership row in the earlier Union of the Russian People. The organisation was active from 1908 until 1917 and stubbornly defended the Orthodox Church, Tsar, and Russian people. It published many books and pamphlets, as well as a newspaper and two weeklies. The Union eventually met its end after the February Revolution.
[3]: A reference to two rivers in Saint-Petersburg that were often the scene of massed fist-fights on public holidays, a tradition that derived from pagan times.
[4]: “They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.”
[5]: “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”
[6]: “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”
[7]: An akathist (Ἀκάθιστος) is a standing hymn dedicated to a saint, holy event, or member of the Holy Trinity.
[8]: The two lines are from the poem Remembrance (Воспоминание) by Vasily Andreevich Zhukovsky (1783- 1852), the leading figure in Russian romantic poetry before Pushkin.
[9]: These lines are from the poem The Captain (Полководец) by Aleksandr Pushkin. The poem was originally dedicated to prince M. G. Barclay-de-Tolly, a masterful military commander known for his bold strategies and daring exploits.


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