Progress and Transformation

Homily on the commemoration day of Holy Hieromartyr Hilarion, Archbishop of Verea


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

It is thought that mankind is evolving forward along the path of progress. People devise various technologies, political systems, and constructs; and all of this, as it seems to them, is directed towards peoples’ betterment, so that man’s life would be easier, richer, fuller, and more just. The word “progress” itself has become a synonym for “benefit”, “goods”, something undoubtedly positive, something good and important in the life of man.

However, in reality we see a completely different picture: Despite our service to this progress, and evolution within its framework, people are not becoming better. Moreover, this progress is often used to justify monstrous crimes, and terrible things are happening before our very eyes.

St. Hilarion, whom we glorify today, also pondered this strange incongruity. In his work “Progress and Transformation” he talks about the idol of progress, which the world serves. The saint points out that this progress is movement forward along a single plane—barren, meaningless, not purifying or transforming the human soul.

He talks about how the ideal for a Christian should be not progress but transformation—a movement upward to the grace of the Holy Spirit, to the Heavenly Jerusalem. This was always the ideal and meaning of the Christian life. And the further we depart from this ideal, the more sorrows and senseless tasks are set before us and before our nation, before God’s people. This is how it has always been: The further people departed from the ideal of transformation, the further they descended into the darkness of senseless and murky idol worship.

Holy Hieromartyr Hilarion is both an example to us and a reproach at the same time. Having lived a short life, this man gave himself completely to the Church, to the service of God, to transformation in Christ and ascent to the heavenly Jerusalem. But he did not walk alone. By his example, his life, work, asceticism, and sufferings he led after him a multitude of Christians—including those who resisted God’s grace, murmured, and sought earthly frivolities and goods in this idol of progress. In the twentieth century, in the Russian people and their country was a horrible, bloody collision between progress and transformation. And God’s people paid with their blood and their lives for their confession of the truth.

Today we are reaping the grace-filled fruits of their labors and suffering. We have gathered here to partake of divine grace; and Holy Hieromartyr Hilarion exults and rejoices with us, seeing that this transformation has also touched our sinful hearts and souls.

In Sunday’s Gospel we heard how people responded to God’s call. One man says, “I have bought land and can’t come, I am busy with it.” Another says, “I bought some farm animals, and I have to take care of them.” The third says, “I got married, and I can’t come either” (cf. Lk. 14:18–20).

We also very often, when the Lord calls us to transformation, to change, to partaking of His greatest goods, turn out to be deaf. But Holy Hieromartyr Hilarion gave his whole self to the Church. This is the opposite example of those careless people—which includes you and me.

“The main enemy of transformation,” said the holy hieromartyr, “is sin.”

And the apostle also calls us to Mortify our members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5), to put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of our mouths; Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him (Col. 3:8–10).

St. Hilarion (Troitsky) Rescues a Chekist at Solovki. Icon fragment from the Church of the Holy Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos at Butyrka Prison St. Hilarion (Troitsky) Rescues a Chekist at Solovki. Icon fragment from the Church of the Holy Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos at Butyrka Prison     

All apologists of progress and development are, in a way, “apostles” of various political teachings. If only at least one of them were to speak first about this. They talk about everything in the world—about empty, temporary things, behind which there is no divine power or truth.

The apostles spoke of simple things that are accessible to each of us, and without which transformation in the Holy Spirit and a Christian’s salvation are impossible. There is no other recipe for saving the human soul and bringing it to the knowledge of God; for coming to the knowledge to which St. Hilarion came by way of his life, studies, labors, asceticism, and finally, martyrdom for Christ. May he be our helper and guide along this path of transformation, salvation, and unification with Christ our Lord in the Heavenly Kingdom.


Hieromonk Ignaty (Shestakov)
Translation by


Editor12/28/2021 8:50 pm
Fr. Joel, as far as we know, it hasn't. But we will try to find it and translate it.
Fr. Joel Brady12/28/2021 6:26 pm
Can St. Hilarion's work on Progress & Transformation be found anywhere in English? It seems as though it would be at least as relevant for us in the English-speaking world now as in his time & place, despite all of the differences in the particular conditions.
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