In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Today, again and again, we return in our prayers and thoughts to Holy Grand Prince Alexander Nevsky. He spent all his life in battles—even as boy he would accompany his father on the field of battle. When he won his most distinguished victories on the Neva River and on Chudskaya Lake (the Battle on the Ice), he was still very young—just over twenty years old. The Lord gave him wisdom beyond his years, the prayer of a saint, and an enormous responsibility for the Russian land—not only for his contemporaries who lived in the thirteenth century, but also for future generations. Alexander Nevsky like no one else understood that should he err in his thirteenth century (the Neva battle in 1240 or the Battle on the Ice in 1242), should he accept or not accept help from the Latin rulers and the Roman pope (it would have seemed to be perfectly logical to accept it, because the body of the Russian nation was being torn apart by the invasions of the Horde), should he humble himself and go to the Horde in humiliation, almost to sure death (which is what finally happened—he was poisoned in the Horde)—what should he do to fulfill his duty? At the time, people reviled Alexander Nevsky all over. And even in our day he’s criticized in various ways. He supposedly sold out to the Horde, and didn’t lead an uprising against the Horde conquerors. But Alexander Nevsky thought according to God’s will and looked ahead, just as Patriarch Tikhon would say many centuries later, “Let my name perish in history, but let there be benefit to the Church.” Just like Field Marshall Kutuzov, who understood what hatred would stigmatize him, surrendered Moscow in order to save all of Russia [during the War of 1912]. This is a great responsibility for one’s neighbor—even if it’s hard for you, even if it’s unpleasant for you. It’s one great quality of the Russian people.
There are many amongst you wearing protective facemasks, and some who aren’t. Those who are wearing masks are not saving their own skins, not themselves, but are protecting their neighbors from the possibility of: “What if I’m carrying the sickness? I’ll wear it so that the person standing next to me won’t get infected, even if I don’t know about it.” That is the same spirit that St. Alexander Nevsky had. He cared for those near him not only during his lifetime, but also those who would live after him. He preserved what was most important in Rus’—the faith; hope that in the final analysis the Lord will direct Russia to salvation, to victory, to prosperity. There was no presumption in him; he didn’t say, “Ah, nothing will happen”. There was no pride in him. He was responsible for all those near him. That is why the Holy Church raised him to rank among the saints. He remains for us and for all times a great example of responsibility for the place and duties that the Lord has placed one in.
We should be praying to St. Alexander Nevsky today more than ever, so that by his prayers he would imbue our hearts with a sense of responsibility before God, before each other, and before our neighbors. The most terrible sickness is irresponsibility, which can attack the human soul like COVID. Then all sorts of calamities and disasters befall our lands and our people. When the people mobilize in responsible service, no one can conquer them. Let’s not allow the devil to sow a spirit of irresponsibility, frivolity, and lack of love for our neighbor in our hearts. I greet you with the feast, dear brothers and sisters! May the Lord preserve you.
Wear your masks, brothers and sisters! Don’t stand there like sore thumbs. Don’t stand there like irresponsible people, brazenly refusing to do what you’ve been blessed to do. Take care for your neighbors! Do not be unwilling causes of other people’s disasters. You yourselves heard how many names of the sick we commemorated today for their health. And this was only the priests and church servants (choir members, acolytes, and guards) in our Pskov diocese—around sixty people. Many of them were infected while standing next to people who gave no thought to protecting others from themselves.
May God’s blessing and help be with those who relate responsibly and with love toward all their neighbors. This is Christ-like love; this is the fulfillment of God’s commandment of love in action. Thus is the blessing of God and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.