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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Christ's Triumph in Russia


Starting on May 13th, 1917, Our Lady appeared to three Portugese peasant children for six consecutive months. She told them that people must do penance and pray much, using the rosary every day, that prayer and penance can stop wars and bring peace, both to those who use these means and to the world. The war would be over soon; but, if they did not really pray and practise penance a worse war would come about. Also, there would be a terrible persecution of the Church in Russia and this would spread to other countries. There would be many martyrs and much suffering. To counteract this evil, the Pope must be asked to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart,people should offer "communions of reparation" on first Saturdays. In time, Our Lady would conquer,Russia would return to the Faith, and there would be a period of peace.
Rome listened, and it became a common practice to pray for Russia, after each Mass, for example. Many people were in the habit of offering small sacrifices and saying the rosary "for the conversion of Russia". Pope Pius XII, in his Apostolic Letter of July 7, 1952 "Sacro Vergente" consecrated Russia to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Pius XII wrote,
"Just as a few years ago We consecrated the entire human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, so today We consecrate and in a most special manner We entrust all the peoples of Russia to this Immaculate Heart"…[13] The Pope reminded the Russian people, that the Virgin Mary was always victorious. "The gates of hell will never prevail, where she offers her protection. She is the good mother, the mother of all, and it has never been heard, that those who seek her protection, will not receive it. With this certainty, the Pope dedicates all people of Russia to the immaculate heart of the Virgin. She will help! Error and atheism will be overcome with her assistance and divine grace".[14]
Between the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord and the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady,1991 (Julian Calendar), the Soviet atheist union of republics collapsed... Imagine the scene on August 19th (our calendar)in the main square in Moscow. The Soviet hardliners, with the help of the top KGB and military generals, had kidnapped Gorbachev and had ordered him to resign the presidency, which he refused to do. Yeltsin, the newly elected president of the Soviet Union was holed up in the parliament building, nicknamed the "White House". It was surrounded by unarmed civilians, many very young or very old, who were defending it, while tanks, with their guns trained on the "White House" were waiting to for orders to attack. At one point, Yeltsin came out of the building and danced on one of the tanks, daring them to do something. He was able to broadcast to the nation from the building, and he made full use of the facility. Things were not going the hardliners' way. Ten tanks with their commander changed sides. The elite Alpha Unit refused to storm the parliament in spite of orders to do so. However, all the military might remained under the orders of the junta that had taken power. It looked set for a blood bath. Then Yeltsin appealed by radio to the Patriarch, Alexy II.
Aleksey Ridiger, although a churchman, had been a KGB agent for many years, codename "Thrush", and he had been elected Patriarch the year before by a group of bishops, probably with a certain amount of pressure from the KGB: he was "their" man. They probably expected him to toe the KGB line. However, like St Thomas a Becket in England who had been Henry II's man until made Archbishop of Canterbury, Alexy II changed on becoming Patriarch. He was celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration in the cathedral when Yeltsin made his appeal. The next day Patriarch Alexy by radio and fax demanded that the nation should hear the voice of Gorbachev, the outgoing president. He then appealed to parliament, not the party organization, to find a solution. He ended up by saying:
"We call upon all parts of the Russian Orthodox Church, the whole of our people, and particularly our army at this critical moment for our nation to show support and not to permit the shedding of fraternal blood. We raise the heartfelt prayer to our Lord and summon all true believers in our Church to join this prayer begging Him to dispense peace to the peoples of our land so that they can in future build their homeland in accordance with freedom of choice and the accepted norms of morality and law."

Shortly after midnight on August 21st a column of tanks approached the parliament building. Two young men were shot and one was squashed by a tank. As soon as he heard of this, AlexyII broadcast again. He said:

"The delicate civil peace of our society has been rent asunder. According to the latest information, open armed conflict and loss of life have begun [i.e., the death of three young men trying to block the tanks]. In these circumstances, my duty as Patriarch is to warn everybody for whom the word of the Church is dear and carries weight: Every person who raises arms against his neighbor, against unarmed civilians, will be taking upon his soul a very profound sin which will separate him from the Church and from God. It is appropriate to shed more tears and say more prayers for such people than for their victims.
May God protect you from the terrible sin of fratricide. I solemnly warn all my fellow-citizens:
The Church does not condone and cannot condone unlawful and violent acts and the shedding of blood.
I ask all of you, my dear ones, to do everything possible to prevent the flame of civil war from bursting forth.
Cease at once!
I ask soldiers and their officers to remember that no one can set a price on human life and pay it [i.e., that price].
I ask the Most Holy Mother of God, the Protector of our city, at this time of the Feast of the Transfiguration, not to withdraw Her protection from us, but to preserve all of us.
O Mother of God (Mater Bozhia), help us to reconcile ourselves to one another, to the truth, and to God! Aleksy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. "
At the mention of "the Most Holy Mother of God", many civilians and soldiers bowed their heads and crossed themselves. Russians in general and Muscovites in particular regard the Blessed Virgin as their Protectress, and she has been invoked at many times of crisis. There are several icons through which the people of Moscow believe that Our Lady protects them. One is Our Lady of Vladimir which always adorns the front page of this blog. Then there is Our Lady of Kazan (We have a video in the post on Our Lady). Then there is Our Lady of the Gate that guards one of the main entrances into Moscow. This invocation by the Patriarch stressed the gravity of the situation and a belief that the Blessed Virgin would see them through. Patriarch Alexy had asked Our Lady to defeat the "coup" by the Communist hardliners.
Even stronger was the way he threatened the soldiers," Every person who raises arms against his neighbour, against unarmed civilians, will be taking upon his soul a very profound sin which will separate him from the Church and from God. It is appropriate to shed more tears and say more prayers for such people than for their victims." How many armies or soldiers in the "Christian West" would pay much attention to such a threat. Yet, ever since 1917, all education in Russia was atheist in school and university. Children or students who were known to have attended Mass were penalized in their grades in subjects other than religion. Known Christians were blocked from promotion. After such a long time in which Christians were depicted as stupid and even evil in the media, the Patriarch could threaten so-called atheist soldiers that they would be separated from the Church and God; and they listened. From the depths of the Russian psyche, Holy Russia was claiming its own. The troops in the tanks were attacked with New Testaments which were given by the Russian Bible Society and thrust into their hands. Priests began to baptise people in the streets. At 3.00am Kryuchkov phoned Yeltsin to tell him that the parliament would not be attacked. Patriarch Alexy attributed the defeat of the junta to the Blessed Virgin Mary; and that is what devout Orthodox believe. Later, the crowd went to the KGB building and pulled down the statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky,founder of the "Cheka", ancestor of the Russian Secret Police. In its place they put a Russian cross with its extra sloping bar. On the base they painted in Old Slavonic, "By this sign you will conquer". the words that Constantine claimed to see before the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312AD.
It is a long way from Fatima in Portugal to Moscow in Russia, and it is a long time between May 13th, 1917 and the process that began on the Feast of the Transfiguration and finally ended on the Feast of the Assumption, and the three little peasant children lived in a different world from Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia; but I hope that one day the Russian Orthodox will realize how Our Lady's care and power as Mother of God crosses frontiers both national and ecclesiastical, and that Patriarch Alexy was, in effect, joining his intercession to "the Most Holy Mother of God" to the prayers of millions of Catholics in the West, the rosaries of women, the small sacrifices of children, and the "communions of reparation" on first Saturdays which people did because Our Lady had asked for them.
Even stronger was the way he threatened the soldiers," Every person who raises arms against his neighbour, against unarmed civilians, will be taking upon his soul a very profound sin which will separate him from the Church and from God. It is appropriate to shed more tears and say more prayers for such people than for their victims." How many armies or soldiers in the "Christian West" would pay much attention to such a threat. Yet, ever since 1917, all education in Russia was atheist in school and university. Children or students who were known to have attended Mass were penalized in their grades in subjects other than religion. Known Christians were blocked from promotion. After such a long time in which Christians were depicted as stupid and even evil in the media, the Patriarch could threaten so-called atheist soldiers that they would be separated from the Church and God; and they listened. From the depths of the Russian psyche, Holy Russia was claiming its own. The troops in the tanks were attacked with New Testaments which were given by the Russian Bible Society and thrust into their hands. Priests began to baptise people in the streets. At 3.00am Kryuchkov phoned Yeltsin to tell him that the parliament would not be attacked. Patriarch Alexy attributed the defeat of the junta to the Blessed Virgin Mary; and that is what devout Orthodox believe. Later, the crowd went to the KGB building and pulled down the statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky,founder of the "Cheka", ancestor of the Russian Secret Police. In its place they put a Russian cross with its extra sloping bar. On the base they painted in Old Slavonic, "By this sign you will conquer". the words that Constantine claimed to see before the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312AD.
It is a long way from Fatima in Portugal to Moscow in Russia, and it is a long time between May 13th, 1917 and the process that began on the Feast of the Transfiguration and finally ended on the Feast of the Assumption, and the three little peasant children lived in a different world from Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia; but I hope that one day the Russian Orthodox will realize how Our Lady's care and power as Mother of God crosses frontiers both national and ecclesiastical, and that Patriarch Alexy was, in effect, joining his intercession to "the Most Holy Mother of God" to the prayers of millions of Catholics in the West, the rosaries of women, the small sacrifices of children, and the "communions of reparation" on first Saturdays which people did because Our Lady had asked for them. One thing that the secular press will not mention with any emphasis is that the fall of Atheistic Communism in Eastern Europe was, more than anything, brought about by means of the Christian faith of ordinary people. Starting with the election of a Polish Pope and the activity of Solidarity and ending with a speech by the Patriarch of Moscow, the felling of the statue of the founder of Russia's secret police and replacing it with a cross. "By this sign you will conquer."

In this article I have tried to give you some pictures and videos which show ordinary people and altar boys. The style is different but the reality is the same. In spite of all the sacrifice that it entailed,ordinary people in Russia had a faith that would move mountains and was certainly stronger than all that an all-powerful atheist regime could muster. This srticle has told us of an ecumenical prayer to the Mother of God before ecumenism was invented. Just as the same Mother of God and the same apostles visited both St Seraphim of Sarov and St John Mary Vianney, with complete disregard for ecclesiastical restrictions, so Mary in Fatima recruited Roman Catholicism in a campaign of prayer across the ecclesiastical divide for the conversion of Russia. A couple of years ago, my abbot and another monk of my monastery went to Minsk as guests of an Orthodox convent. They were guided round the churches of the city by a friendly Orthodox priest. On one day, he told them he would show them two churches, and he wanted them to guess which one was Orthodox and which was Catholic. One was a model of Byzantine liturgical correctness, and the other had a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Of course, the one with the statue was Orthodox; so some, at least, perhaps knew the truth, and acknowledged that the Holy Spirit is ecumenical, even when we are not.
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