SERMON ON THE SUNDAY OF ALL SAINTS
BY HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP TIKHON
FIRST HIERARCH OF THE RUSSIAN TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH
2022, Omsk, Siberia.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Orthodox Church to day celebrates the memory of All the Saints from the ages who have pleased God, been glorified by God, and who are already triumphant in Heaven with the great victory of our Savior over death and hell. These are the grace-filled fruits of the coming of the All-Holy Spirit of God and His sojourn in the Church of Christ, which is not the Church of the evil ones, but the Church of all Saints – Martyrs, Venerable Ones, God-pleasers, Heavenly Powers and weak human souls who bring forth repentance. And this unity of the heavenly and earthly Churches is a holy unity – in truth, in righteousness, in love. This is not a worldly, external unity; it is an inner, mysterious, perfect unity.
The Divine Liturgy reveals to us the content of this unity: a diskos on which is the Lamb of God, a particle in the name of the Mother of God, particles taken out in remembrance of the prophets, apostles, martyrs, saints, reverend ones, and particles taken out to cleanse the sins of the living and deceased servants of God. This is an image of church unity, which is given to the world by the Sacrifice on Golgotha, which is sealed with the blood of the Savior who redeemed the world. And we become partakers of this unity in the Divine Sacrament of the Eucharist. This unity has never been achieved by worldly ways and means. It can never be based on lies and untruths. It can never be based on violence and hypocrisy. And no matter how much something may resemble unity, that which is based on lies, untruth, violence – will never be true unity, but will be an enemy’s deceit, the devil’s seduction.
None of us should be embarrassed and tempted by the apparent unity, power, earthly glory of the churches representing official Orthodoxy. The Word of God so clearly bears witness to the Church being humiliated here on earth, just as her Divine Founder was humiliated. In this world, the Church must always be a wanderer, prosperity and comfort deprive her of militant fire, and if the Church ceases to denounce lies and evil, she ceases to serve the Truth. The outward flourishing and imaginary well-being of the earthly Church has always carried a great danger of losing the spirit of true Orthodoxy. In such times, more by custom than by conviction, many rotten members have poured into the Church, who during times of persecution and discord have been immediately shown for what they are by falling away.
Nowhere in the Word of God do we find promises that the Holy Church will have earthly power and glory. Everything that is revealed to us about the future fate of the Church, everything, speaks of something else. The Church of the End Times is not portrayed as a church of millions of people; on the contrary, it says: will the Savior find faith on earth when he comes? Not millions will go into the desert in the last times, not millions will be trampled down like dust, but separate small groups of the faithful will be persecuted. Many will waver in faith when the True Church, the Holy Church, will diminish, will not have external power, external triumph. But the faithful children of the Church must get used to the joyful thought that the strength of the Church is in our Savior Jesus Christ, that she is in truth, that she is invincible. And in the lives of the Saints there are wondrous examples of this affirmation in truth, rather than a worldly feeling of superiority in majority and power. If we recall the history of the Church, we can see that the conscience of a person has always had, and still has, the opportunity to check whether the true desire for church unity guides him, or the deceptive ghost of the worldly and external unity of the Church. Did Maximus the Confessor violate this unity when he said: “If the whole universe communes with the heretical patriarch, I alone will not commune”? Did St. Gregory the Theologian violate this unity when he headed the only Holy Orthodox Church in Constantinople that separated from the heretics?
There is not a single example in the life of the Church when church unity demanded lies and untruths from people. Great sacrifices were made on the altar of church unity, much martyrs’ blood has been shed for the unity of the Church, but there has never been a single case when the Holy Church, in the name of this unity, demanded from people that they do something contrary to their conscience – what they consider to be a lie, a lie and lawlessness. For her unity, the Holy Church demands – following the example of her Divine Teacher who gave Himself for the salvation of the world – that the faithful be ready to give everything they have, including their very lives. But it has never happened that, in the name of the unity of the Church, she has demanded under threat what is contrary to the conscience of Orthodox Christians. This is not true church unity if it is based on lies, violence, untruth and hypocrisy.
Special mention must be made of hypocrisy. This sin is terrible because it takes root in a person gradually and firmly. It firmly seizes power over the soul of a person and, most importantly, quickly becomes an inconspicuous and constant companion of all his thoughts and feelings, all attitudes to people and life events, so that even the sinner himself does not notice his insincerity, his hypocritical assessment of everything around. The Savior compares this sin to leaven in dough, for it is difficult to find this leaven in baked bread, but it is present in it. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” says the Savior to His disciples, “which is hypocrisy.”
Most people become so accustomed to hypocrisy that they stop seeing their true self – often proud, selfish, lustful. And only at the moment of death, when this mask falls off, does a person begin to see himself as he really is. This is the main insidiousness of this sin, which does not allow a person to repent of it in time – this is its inconspicuousness. Hypocrisy can encompass the whole life of a person, but it is most dangerous and shameful, most terrible when it invades the realm of faith – directly into the life of the Church.
When, under the pretext of strict observance of the canons, rules, charters of the church, personal power-hungry, selfish goals are pursued with the active participation of one’s own pride and ambition. This has always served as the basis for church unrest, schisms and divisions, when for the sake of these personal goals the spiritual needs of a huge number of Orthodox people are violated, the life of church parishes is disrupted, which sometimes causes irreparable damage to the flock of Christ. Of course, a terrible answer will have to be held before the Righteous Judge by these hypocrites who do evil of this kind.
Indeed, only hypocrites can, allowing themselves to completely ignore the canonical rules of the Church and at the same time very exactingly demand their fulfillment from others, and apply them to others. In the Orthodox Church it is absolutely impossible to use double standards, two “truths” – one for himself and the other for the rest. Evil always remains evil, and the Church teaches us that we should be much stricter and more demanding towards ourselves, towards our actions, towards our behavior, than towards the actions of other people – and if anyone does otherwise, he is a hypocrite.
Continuing the conversation about church unity, it must be said that the devil is the father of lies, and he can only create the appearance of unity, inside of which boils demonic work on the decomposition of human souls. And these people, as if blinded, occupied with the illusion of visible unity and mechanical connection, do not feel what an abyss separates each person from another. The main forces of the devil and his servants have always been directed towards the spiritual life, and above all towards the life of the Church. But you and I know that where the Lord is, there the spirit gathers people together, there is unity in the Lord, in truth and righteousness. Where the devil is, there is decay, the disintegration of spiritual life.
Now the True Church of Christ is going through difficult times. By his incredible efforts in perseverance and onslaught, the enemy of the Church and our salvation has ensured that divisions and schisms have reached an unprecedented scale. These numerous divisions deprive many weak human souls of true spiritual guidance and confidence in whether they are in the Church or not. And this is the main goal of the devil – to deprive people of the communion of the true Body and Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ. And those who fall into this trap of schisms and divisions are, first of all, those who have not accustomed themselves to a full-blooded church life, who have neglected the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church and thoughtlessly treated Her Sacraments, who have lived and continue to live in the spirit of this world, not heeding themselves, being carried away by passions of conceit, ambition, arrogance of intellect, in-humility of mind.
The present times – when many of the events described in the Revelation of St. John the Theologian are coming true – have their own meaning, which consists in preparing us and the Holy Church for the coming trials of the last days of the world. And these furious attacks on the Church, which we feel, speak of the approach of the Antichrist.
But we will take comfort in the promise of the Lord that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, and He will give wisdom to the confessors. And if our hope for salvation and our zeal for the Church of God are from a pure heart, if there is nothing personal, selfish in them, nothing that feeds our addictions to earthly well-being, if they are imbued with sincere, sacrificial love for the Lord and His Church then these last times will not be terrible for us, for then the Lord will be near us, and will enlighten and teach every believing soul by His grace.
Let us lift up, brothers and sisters, our fervent prayers to all the Saints, whose memory we celebrate today, so that through their intercession the Lord would grant us in these last times, when it is required of us, to show the power of our confession.
I congratulate you all on the Day of the Angel, because today we celebrate the memory of the heavenly patrons of each of us. Let us be united in the Truth – in our Lord Jesus Christ, just as all the Saints from the ages who have been pleasing to God.