What is Russia’s Destiny?
Every Russian, wherever he may be, – in the Fatherland that was seized by the godless Communists or on the Babylonian rivers of the great Russian diaspora, – cannot but ponder the destiny of Russia.
Our suffering homeland is undoubtedly experiencing the most responsible time in its history. Neither the fratricidal strife of the medieval period of principalities, nor the centuries under the evil Tatar yoke, nor the first Time of Troubles, nor even the invasion of Napoleon can be compared in the slightest degree with our terrible times.
In those times it was mainly the body of the nation that suffered, while now there is a struggle for the soul of our people. Satan has now openly come out against Christ and has chosen the wide open spaces of Russia as his battleground. This fearsome and intelligent spirit knows what he is doing. He understands quite well that in order to achieve victory over mankind, he must destroy his main adversary – the Russian people, who for such a long time have been known as “the God-bearing people.”
Thus, for forty long years Satan’s faithful servants – the godless Communists – have been trying to eradicate God from the soul of this people, to take Christ away from it. For forty long years the mighty and dreadful machine of the state apparatus, armed with the most modern technology, has been eradicating from the Russian soul all that is sacred and spiritual.
What can the Russian people expect of the future? Is there any hope of salvation?
“The Lord’s destinies are a great abyss!” – says the holy psalm-writer King David. However, armed with humble prayer and placing hope in God’s mercy, one can resolve to look into the misty distance of the Russian future.
Three paths seem to stretch out before Russia.
The first path, onto which the godless are pushing it, is a strengthening of Communism and the world revolution, with the establishment of an illusory paradise on earth without God.
The second path, which represents the dream of many Russian pro-Western liberals, is the gradual replacement of the Bolshevik dictatorship with a Western-style, for example American, capitalist democracy.
These two paths are purely human. But I believe there is another, third path, a unique and divine path for the Russian people. The purpose of this essay is to clarify the nature of this path.
The history and fate of each major people is always to a certain extent tied in with the history and fate of mankind. The best thing that mankind possesses is, undoubtedly, Christianity. For us, Christians, this is perfectly understandable. The Lord Christ became incarnate and appeared in the world with His wondrous teaching in order for it to become the legacy of all peoples, of all mankind. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19-20).
The Lord did not say to His disciples: go and teach individual select peoples, but all nations. This means that it is not only individuals who must live according to God’s word, according to Christian precepts, and to attain salvation in Christ, but all social groups, and more than that – entire nations, i.e. state formations. And if that is so, then the state system, state laws, and the very form of government must be infused with a benevolent Christian spirit.
As soon as the persecutions ended and Christianity came out of the catacombs, from the time of the holy equal-to-the-apostles Emperor Constantine the Great, the issue of the Christianization of social and state life presented itself to mankind which had converted to Christianity, and many large and small nations tried to resolve it in some manner or other.
By this time the Church founded by Christ – this divinely human establishment, this actual and material, i.e. visible on earth form of the Heavenly Kingdom, as philosopher Vladimir Solovyev called it, – already became a powerful factor in the life of the peoples who had converted to Christianity.
Being an establishment sui generis, i.e. a special kind of organism, the Church in principle did not aspire to replace the state apparatus. “Render unto God that which belongs to God, and to Caesar – that which is Caesar’s.” However, being an “organization of true life,” the Church tried to create this true life within the state.
On a historical plane certain collisions sometimes arose between Church and state. In the West the Church began more and more to suppress the state, appropriating Caesar’s functions for itself.
This manifestation is called theocracy by historians. For the almost 2,000 years of Christianity’s existence, theocracy was unable to achieve complete development and took on the somewhat bizarre form of papal Caesarianism.
In the East, in Byzantium, the opposite could be observed, alas! – a certain suppression of the Church by the state, which is customarily called Caesarian papism.
In their struggle against this similarly-bizarre spiritual manifestation, the best minds of the Church and state crystallized a unique and truly divine system of mutual relations between the Church and the state, which came to be known as symphony, or, in other words, accord or concordance.
The essence of this symphony is as follows: the Church and the state each proceed to fulfill their missions independently, the Church on a divine plane and the state on a human plane, and if these planes should collide, the two entities synchronize their actions in such a way as to produce true symphony or harmony.
If the state, in the person of its monarch – the anointed one of God – deviates from divine law, the Church, in the person of its hierarch, uses its right of counsel and instruction. When the state’s violations of the law were especially flagrant, the hierarchs applied church sanctions: they excommunicated the emperors and other figures of authority, and did not even allow them to enter the church. Thus it was, for example, with Emperor Theodosius the Great, to whom St. Ambrose of Milan denied entry into the church for his order to execute all the inhabitants of a city that had revolted.
In Byzantium the idea of symphony achieved concrete, almost finite forms. Periods of symphony between the Church and state sometimes lasted for decades, and at such times Byzantium could rightly be called a churched nation, a preview of life in the Heavenly Kingdom.
Alas, external and internal circumstances prevented Byzantium and its statehood to attain world-wide importance. Hellenic wisdom helped the Church to create a profound and orderly system of Christian religious teaching, but the inheritors of glorious Byzantium, the Greeks of the second millennium of the Christian era, already did not have sufficient spiritual strength to implement in practice and to the very end the system of genuine Christian life, genuine Christian statehood. It appeared that the realization of such a system required greater spaces, a nation of greater proportions, a larger field of experience. And as the Byzantine Empire and the Hellenic culture declined, there appeared in its place and began to flourish a new state formation to the northeast, founded upon wide boundless spaces and populated by a young nation full of fresh mental and physical powers.
The symphony of Church and state existed to some degree under the meek Tsar Fedor Ioannovich. It achieved greater development under Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich and Patriarch Philaret, and its culmination under Tsar Aleksey Mikhaylovich and Patriarch Nikon.
Tsar Peter sharply turned the wheel of the state ship away from divine rule towards human rule. He replaced the Orthodox kingdom with an Empire with purely worldly tendencies. Peter categorically renounced the symphony of Church and state, replacing it with Caesaric papism of a rather extreme form. It should be honestly admitted that to a greater or lesser degree this Caesaric papism existed in Russia up to the very revolution. It was only the Tsar-Martyr, Emperor Nicholas Aleksandrovich, the most religious and pious of all sovereigns after Peter, who gave back to Russia its canonical and conciliary Church structure, by convening an All-Russian Council at which a patriarch was elected and the lost symphony of Church and state was restored.
Thus we come to the time of the revolution.
Why did it occur?
It is my sincere conviction that it occurred because Russia did not fulfill its divine calling to present to the world a churched Christian state, in which a symphony between spiritual and civil power would reign.
What can we expect in the future? What is Russia’s destiny?
The genuine Christian consciousness, which believes in God’s Providence over us, cannot accept and decisively rejects the Bolshevik idea of a paradise on earth, the more so that there are absolutely no indications of such an idea in the Holy Scriptures.
The second path of which we spoke earlier, the path of turning Russia into a non-religious democratic Capitalistic state, no matter whether it be a monarchy or a republic, accords neither with the Russian soul, nor with Russian history, nor with Russian spiritual thought.
At the present time many of our church people have the expectation of an imminent end of the world. To a certain degree they are right. Never in the past 2,000 years have there been so many signs of Christ’s imminent coming. Terrible wars, great earthquakes, a horrific increase of evil, a general loss of faith, the preaching of Christianity throughout the entire world, since there is practically not a single corner of the earth where people have not heard of Christ, the terrible atomic bombs that can burn up the earth instantaneously, the winged iron locusts foretold in the Apocalypse, – all of this promotes an eschatological world-view.
However, personally I believe that Christianity has not yet been fully manifested in our earthly life. The ideal of a Christian state that would create favorable conditions for man’s salvation has not yet been fully realized by any one people and has not yet been revealed to the world in its harmonic completeness.
It is my deepest conviction that Christianity has not yet reached its culmination in life, has not yet said its last word. Neither has Russia said its last word.
Many, very many of the best Russian people, such as Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Khomyakov, Kireevsky, Aksakov and the other Slavophiles, Vladimir Solovyev and a number of other prominent Russian writers and thinkers believed in Russia’s unique calling.
The current tragic times were foretold by St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. John of Kronstadt, St. Theophan the Recluse, Optina Elder Nectarius, and many others. All of them believed in the forthcoming resurrection of Holy Russia. Their prophecies are well known.
Recently, during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, by the grace of God I became acquainted with new, hitherto unknown prophecies, which shed a new light on Russia’s destiny. These prophecies were discovered by a learned Russian monk in ancient Greek manuscripts that were preserved in an ancient Greek monastery. Anonymous holy fathers of the 8th and 9th centuries, i.e. contemporaries of St. John Damascene, recorded these prophecies in approximately the following words:
“After the God-elect Jewish people, having given their Messiah and Saviour over to torture and a shameful death, lost their electness, the latter was transferred to the Hellenes, who became the second chosen people. The ancient Greeks’ powerful and inquisitive mind, enlightened by Christianity, penetrated into the very depths of knowledge of the world. The great Eastern Church Fathers refined the Christian dogmas and created an orderly system of Christian teaching. In this lies the great merit of the Greek people. However, the Byzantine state does not have enough creative powers and capabilities to build a harmonic social and state life on this firm Christian foundation. The scepter of an Orthodox kingdom is falling out of the weakening hands of the Byzantine emperors, who have been unable to bring about a symphony of Church and state.
Therefore, to succeed the spiritually-decrepit chosen Greek people, the Providential Lord will elect a third people. This people will appear in the North in a century or two (these prophecies were written in the Palestine 150-200 years before the baptism of Russia), will receive Christianity wholeheartedly, will try to live according to Christ’s commandments and to seek, according to Christ the Saviour’s instructions, the Kingdom of God and His Truth above all. For such zeal the Lord God will make this people His beloved people and will give unto it all the rest – great territorial expanses, wealth, national might and glory.
Due to human frailty, this great people will often fall into great sin and will be punished for it by many trials. After a thousand years or so, this God-elect people will waver in its faith and in its standing for Christ’s Truth, will become prideful of its might and glory, will cease seeking the future eternal City, and will wish for paradise on earth instead of in heaven.
However, not all of this people will follow the wide path to perdition, although the majority will, especially its leading elite. For this great fall a terrible trial by fire will be sent from heaven upon this people who had disdained God’s ways. Rivers of blood will flow upon its lands, brother will kill brother, hunger will often visit this land and will reap its fearful harvest, almost all the churches and other holy relics will be destroyed or defiled, a multitude of people will perish. Part of this people, not wishing to live with iniquity and untruth, will leave their homeland and, like the Jewish people, will become dispersed all over the world (does this not refer to us, Russian exiles?).
Holy Martyrs and Confessors of Russia
However, the Lord’s wrath will not completely envelop this third chosen people. The blood of thousands of martyrs will cry out to heaven for mercy. The people itself will start coming to its senses and returning to God. The time period of cleansing trials that had been determined by the Just Judge will finally pass, and once again renascent Holy Orthodoxy will shine like a bright light in those northern expanses. This wondrous light of Christ will illuminate and enlighten all the peoples of the world and will be aided by that part of the people who had been providentially sent into the diaspora in advance, building God’s churches all over the world. Christianity will then reveal itself in all its celestial beauty and fullness…
And afterwards? Afterwards, when time will reach its fulfillment, there will be a complete loss of faith all over the world and all the rest that has been foretold in the Scriptures, the Antichrist will appear, and the end of the world will finally come about.”
These prophecies were written in various manuscripts, but they are all concurrent. I have tried to present the main ideas contained in them, albeit in a more modern language. We should not forget that these prophecies were discovered in genuine Greek 8th and 9th-century manuscripts, when nothing was known about Russia as a nation, while the Russian plain was populated by scattered half-wild Slavic tribes and other peoples.
What can I add to this?
I believe that these prophecies refer to our Russian people, who are thus the third chosen people.
I believe that these amazing prophecies reveal the forthcoming destiny of the Russian people, and that everything will occur as had been foretold from above a thousand years ago. Through the renascent Russian people Holy Orthodoxy will once again present Christ the Saviour to the entire world. Amen.
Archbishop Averky of Syracuse and Trinity