On the feast of the Minsk Icon of the Mother of God, Bishop Benjamin of Borisov and Marinogorsk, elected as Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavl and Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on Thursday, August 26, addressed the faithful children of the Belarusian Orthodox Church with an archpastoral word.
Abyss of mercies and bounties,
Rejoice O Virgin who doth show us the way,
Rejoice O thou who art the joy of all the faithful,
Rejoice O speedy intercessor of all in calamities and sorrows.
Canon of the Most Holy Theotokos before the Odigitria Icon, Ode 5
Peace to you!
Dear fellow countrymen, brothers and sisters!
My first address to you as the primate of the Belarusian Orthodox Church will not be festive and exalted. It arises from pain of heart for our native people and our land, from love for you all.
Our sorrows and worries have come in rapid succession from the time of Great Lent until today. We are seeking a way out but have yet to find it. But how did our pious ancestors act in such cases, and what do the saints teach us? What is the spiritual meaning of what is happening?
“God turns to man in a whisper of love, and if he does not hear, then with the voice of the conscience. If a man does not hear the voice of his conscience, then God speaks to him through the trumpet of suffering” (C. S. Lewis). We need to bring peace back to our land and our hearts.
In these final days of the Dormition Fast, dedicated to the memory of the final earthly days of the Most Holy Theotokos, I call upon all Christians to strictly observe the fast and extend it for three days. When the ancient city of Nineveh was in danger, all its inhabitants took a fast upon themselves, even the animals, and the mercy of God came (Jonah 3). During the fast, let us strengthen our public and personal prayers for Belarus. Let us unite for common prayer in our churches and on church territories, and let us light lamps of fervent prayer in every home all across Belarus.
Another most important thing, without which peace cannot return, is repentance for the sins we have committed. Recall that the Greek word “metanoia,” traditionally translated as “repentance,” literally means a “change of mind.” The Church of Christ calls every one of us to realize our sins, to desire their forgiveness, to flee to the Sacrament of Confession, and most importantly, to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance (Mt. 3:8)—to make amends for the sins we have committed and their negative consequences. A change of minds and a change of hearts from evil to good, from lies to truth, from division to unity, from condemnation to understanding—these are the changes that our society needs first of all.
Knowing the power of common prayer and realizing that, in addition to the external conflict, a spiritual struggle for our homeland is underway in the heart of every one of us, all of us Orthodox believers are called to strengthen our prayer with zeal and boldness, and faith, hope, and love for God and our neighbors. This unity in common prayer and love according to faith and the law of Christ has always been an essential principle in White Rus’ for overcoming various calamities, sorrows, sicknesses, and troubles.
The recent sorrowful events in our homeland have occurred because our hearts inclined towards evil, because the light of Christ could not shine in this dark time when the sin of lawlessness has been revealed.
I believe that if we fervently, zealously, and unanimously fulfill our intention to spend these three days in fasting, prayer, and repentance, we will quickly see the response of Heaven and we will understand what we, the people of Belarus, must do to defeat evil with good and to prevent further evil.
The Gospel says: Come and see! (Jn. 1:46). And I ask you, dear brothers and sisters “come to the Lord and see.” After all, not all Orthodox Christians are observing the fast now, and many have not cleansed their souls with repentance for a long time. The desire to make your life better is quite natural for man, but if we do not call on help from above, relying only on human efforts, it will turn out the same as for those who built the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). Let us begin our journey for the good of the homeland on the feast of this ancient sacred treasure of Belarus and the entire Orthodox world—the Minsk Icon of the Mother of God, whose image is on our capital’s coat of arms, as a testament of previous generations: to honor the Mother of God, to seek her help and intercession. The Lord will always hear our Intercessor and Protectress—the Most Holy Theotokos, as He listened in Cana of Galilee, although His time had not yet come to openly work miracles and mercies for His people.
“We have no other help, we have no other hope but Thee, O Lady. Do Thou help us, for we trust in Thee and we praise Thee, for we are Thy servants; let us not be put to shame!”
May the Lord and the Mother of God and the saints ever be with us, and especially now, in this our first blessed joint undertaking!
Bishop Benjamin, elected Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavl, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus