On the feast of the holy Royal Martyrs, Pravoslavie.ru author Olga Orlova talked with mitred Archpriest Valerian Krechetov, rector of the Churches of the Protection of the Mother of God and of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church in Akulovo near Moscow, about the podvig of being faithful to Christ and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
—Fr. Valerian, what causes such cataclysms as revolutions?
—The revolution of the early twentieth century was preceded by intellectual foment. There is a work by St. Nikolai (Velimirovich) entitled, War and the Bible. The history of mankind has a spiritual meaning and is formed from inside, and this hidden process (where people’s hearts incline) is known to God alone. Outward events just reflect the innermost contents of life and the choices of people. Some, in their inner lives, are resolved to suffer for Christ, some judge others… The apostles prepared themselves for martyrdom, while Judas prepared for his betrayal.
Lately someone asked me why in our days even some priests express their indignation with the Tsar: “Why did he not use the police? After all, he felt that there was some conspiracy.” Not only did the Tsar feel this—he knew this!
—They say that St. Nicholas II heard around forty prophecies of what would happen.
—Right. So, when someone begins to accuse the Tsar of “weak will”, I answer: “If this is the way you think, we should rewrite the Gospel! Because the Lord did the same—although as God, He knew everything.”
—Couldn’t His Father have sent Him twelve legions of angels?
—The fact that some speak about the Tsar this way again is indicative of another inner process.
Divine Providence governs the world: the Lord takes some and keeps others. He even preserves the lives of some in the most hopeless situations and brings them to Himself all outward circumstances notwithstanding. One day my son, Priest Fyodor, gave Communion to one servant of God and the latter passed away several hours later. He never went to church! But when he was young, he refused to take part in the demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The Lord vouchsafed him to receive Communion before his very death. It’s very edifying!
Humans are humans, they get exhausted. Elena Apushkina, my mother-in-law, used to tell me about Fr. Elias (Ilia) Chetverukhin († 18.12.1932). He was imprisoned for his faith, had served his term… The day of his release was approaching; and Fr. Elias adored children so much that he decided to give up his ministry and devote all his time to children… He went to watch a movie about children in prison when a fire broke out and the priest perished. Divine Providence prevented Fr. Elias from coming down from the cross. God took him. There are such stories. God wants everybody to be saved.
—Now Fr. Elias Chetverukhin is ranked among the saints. He is a hieromartyr.
—Some tried to avoid this, but providence ordained otherwise; others dreamed of martyrdom, but the Lord didn’t it to allow them. Everything is in the hands of God. It is a very complex inner spiritual process—destiny.
Everyone has had friction in all times
—The Tsar was quite conscious that he was taking the way of the cross and all faithful people were following him to Golgotha. For the sake of Christ, Tsar Nicholas II spared neither his family, nor his throne, nor the people.
—Of course. The Lord Himself went to the cross and said to all His disciples: Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Mk. 8:34); And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake (Mt. 10:22); If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (Jn. 15:19); And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles (Mt. 10:18). The Lord warned His followers to take into consideration that it would happen precisely this way, and let it not surprise us.
True, there were those who were praised in their lifetimes, but they are exceptions to the rule. And even venerated elders, such as St. Seraphim of Sarov, were beaten. The brethren tried to drive out St. Sergius of Radonezh from the monastery he had founded, and there was friction. Things don’t go smoothly. The enemy opposes all Christians to varying degree.
—It is said that the closer to the altar whereon the bloodless sacrifice is offered the greater is the spiritual warfare. Does this mean that the higher your rank in the Church hierarchy, the higher is the rank of the fallen demonic hierarchy that tempts you?
—Right, but it was said to all Christians: In Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33); Fear not, little flock (Lk. 12:32). If Christ kept saying these things, there is nothing to be surprised at. I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves (Mt. 10:16). Divine love protects us from many things. We just slightly touch the things that could have happened to us. Is there anything to be indignant about? Our sorrows aren’t unpredictable.
The Prophet Isaiah announced to the Hebrews: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness (Is. 5:20). This is precisely what takes place in our times. It is an interesting sequence: Evil will be called good, and good will inevitably be called evil; darkness will be called light, and later light will be called darkness.
Once I leafed through a book by Nicholas Roerich entitled, Light Your Hearts, in which the author apparently suggested that his readers use hell fire.
—Just as the Communists wished for an “eternal flame” for their comrades…
—Yes. Roerich also cited the letter addressed to the Soviet Government by Indian mahatmas, leaders of an ungodly Eastern religion: “We congratulate you! You have abolished the Church, which had become a hotbed of lies and superstition.” But that is slander and blasphemy! The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). They defamed all that is sacred.
Further, the letter reads: “You destroyed the prison of upbringing. You destroyed the seed of hypocrisy.” Sinful inclinations are seething in you, and you are struggling with them, humbling yourself and suppressing the eruption of passions; and they consider this “hypocrisy”! The family helps people struggle with passions and egoism—and they call it “the prison of upbringing.” What nonsense!
And now this filth is affecting poor children in godless countries and families. “You brought the entire power of the Cosmos to children,” the message also read. “The power of the cosmos” is nothing but the spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephes. 6:12). They label the family as “the prison of upbringing”, which ought to be destroyed; and they want to foist permissiveness on children so they can easily sue their parents at the slightest provocation.
—It really resembles the things that are being imposed on us today. The process of globalization, when all that is unique and familiar is being obliterated for the sake of who knows what.
—According to their plans, you simply have no right to bring up your children. They advised other things as well. But for demons the Church, family, and children are always the worst enemies and objects of influence.
—Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov related how a member of the NKVD [“The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs”, which in fact was the USSR Interior Ministry until 1946.—Trans.], seeing the injustices of the system, just surrendered his party membership card on the table and he wasn’t punished for that. Maybe if everyone did the same in such situations, they would always come off clear? Maybe this is just what we need: a civic stand in society and a conciliar stand in the Church?
—Perhaps. Fr. Euphrosyn (Danilov), who served ten years in the Kolyma camps, escaped and ran into the taiga. It was useless to do that—it was freezing hard, there was no shelter and nothing to eat. He was found, and kept in isolation in the freezing cold for three weeks. Fr. Arseny for two or three days, but Fr. Euphrosyn—for twenty-two days. They left him to die there, but he survived! The camp superintendent said: “That’s impossible! I don’t believe that he survived!” Fr. Euphrosyn was shown to him and then thrown into a cell and left to die. He was given nothing to eat because he was unable to work and earn anything. Fellow-inmates would take him with them, carry out his work quota and thus feed him. They would say: “Vasily Adrianovich [Fr. Euphrosyn’s secular name.—Auth.], if everybody were like you, we wouldn’t be here now!”
—There is the following episode in the life of St. Seraphim of Vyritsa: An enraged policeman came to him when the saint was very weak and bedridden. He responded to his angry tirade with great humility and love, accepting everything and not arguing with him. The policeman softened immediately and, bending over him, said in a low voice: “If all priests were like you, there would have been no need for the Revolution!” Maybe revolutionaries were allowed as the scourge of God too?
—Just before our talk I opened a book1 and the first words I saw were: “Why did the Pharisees crucify Christ? Because their ideal was domination. The Lord said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister (Mt. 20:25-26). If nobody needed any domination (either global or local), then all of us would live quietly on this earth. Why would they need it, when one rules the other and must be responsible for his subjects?
—They say that in the Heavenly Kingdom people will no longer govern each other.
—In the 1960s, a servant of God saw her reposed father (who had known life before the Revolution and venerated Tsar Nicholas II deeply) in a dream. She asked him, “Father, how are you there?” He was such a courteous man! He replied, “Well, we are fine.” She proceeded, “How is your life there?” He said, “We are all equal.” She asked, “But do you have a master?” He responded, “Tsar Nicholas. Everybody obeys him.” This is what he said—everybody obeys him there!
—People rejected him here and the Lord returned him his royal dignity.
—Everybody obeys him there. His sacrificial podvig is so high in the eyes of God. It is a true podvig of the cross—to go up on Golgotha as a whole family. The Lord has glorified him there to such a degree.
And here… What about here? If people got rid of sin, there would be no need for any authorities, judges or police; there would be no divorces, no litigations. Now the administrative-judicial-executive machine works to its utmost. What for? To prevent the whole of humanity from destroying itself because of sin. The great writer Nikolai Gogol once remarked sadly: “There is no restricting man by man. If you charge someone to supervise a robber there will be two robbers.”
—But can there be brotherhood?! Why necessarily robbers? It has been observed that the atmosphere of suspiciousness and strict administration produces those who try to circumvent it all the time. Then everything is based neither on the fear of God nor on love, but on the tyranny described by Anton Chekhov: “One cannot be too careful.”
—Do you remember how two monks lived together? “Let’s quarrel.”—“Okay, let’s quarrel.”—“I will take this thing, now it’s mine.”—“Do, please.” That’s all! There is no reason for squabbling! What could be simpler!
And no system, no matter how it is organized, is able to keep mankind from demonstrating its fallen nature. All deplorable things happen in the world because of sin. If people didn’t envy, didn’t put on haughty airs and so on, there would be no problems!
It is impossible to be independent in this world
—But Church hierarchs are still tempted by domination, as was the case in Christ’s times, and the flock develops revolutionary sentiments… What can be done?
—Don’t dominate over the flock because this presupposes responsibility. But those who strive to command and rule always have problems with responsibility. And these individuals prefer to evade responsibility. You can’t expect “little people” to be responsible… But the superiors will have to answer in full. Every blunder is fraught with enormous consequences. This can also be assessed in terms of money—for example, thousands, millions.... Responsibility is responsibility. As lawyers jokingly say: “Ignorance of laws doesn’t exempt you from liability; what exempts you from liability is knowledge of laws.”
—Every law has a loophole, as a proverb goes…
—One law for the rich, one for the poor. Everyone wants to command but no one wants to be responsible.
—But there are also spiritual laws.
—Absolutely! We will all have to answer for everything anyway! There’s no doubt about that. God will make us answer for everything already in this life, and even more so in the life to come. In his historical drama “Boris Godunov”, Alexander Pushkin wrote: “Thou wilt not escape the judgment even of this world, as thou wilt not escape the doom of God.” In any case, you will have to answer even if you try not to think about this now. No matter whether you think or don’t think: you will have to answer!
—What should the faithful’s reaction be?
—It should be very simple. Christ said: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works (Mt. 23:3). Priests often tell lay-people to do one or another thing—but why do they not try to do it themselves first? You should analyze your life, do everything and arrange things with discretion.
I recently read a Chinese aphorism: “To learn without thinking is waste of time, and to think without learning is destructive.”
You should analyze everything and live consciously. Let your faith be rational. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise (Ephes. 5:15), the apostle said. You should approach everything with prudence. But it is quite another matter when some begin to deliberate on such complex matters as the truths of the faith—that is perdition and blasphemy.
Though it is known that anyone can say something useful. The Prophet Balaam, for instance, a very wise man, was instructed by his she-ass, which had seen an angel (cf. Num. 22, 3–35; 23, 7–20). Moses was taught as a pharaoh’s son, learned the wisdom of Egypt, absorbed the wisdom of his own people; but it was his father-in-law Jethro, a shepherd, that gave him advice on how to rule the state. When Jethro saw that Moses was busy examining minor things all day long, he said: “You will wear yourself and the people out this way; we must delegate the powers.”
—But who bears responsibility in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? Even if you are an ordinary “special services nurse” [a nurse trained in assisting a priest in conducting special services in hospital wards.—Trans.]. When you enter a hospital ward (where every patient has a smartphone), information on what someone in the Church has just done, said or declared takes you by storm…
—Everyone bears responsibility. St. Nikolai (Velimirovich) used to say that if the sins of nations or their leaders exceed the maximum permissible limit, a war begins. It is very simple. I remember someone coming up to me at an airport, saying, “Please, can you explain something to me?...” I replied, “Of course I will, if I can… I don’t know what you are going to ask me about.” He started, “What is going on now?…” I said, “What is going on now is what has always taken place. It is impossible to be independent in our world. The main thing is, who you are dependent on. Clear?” He nodded and left.