Jubilee Epistle of His Eminence Hilarion Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad

NEW YORK: November 5/18, 2020

Your Graces Broth­er-Arch­pas­tors, Hon­or­able Fathers,
Beloved Broth­ers and Sis­ters in the Lord!

I sin­cere­ly greet you with the 725th anniver­sary of the appear­ance of the mirac­u­lous Kursk-Root Icon of the Moth­er of God of the “Sign,” and with the Cen­ten­ni­al of the found­ing of the High­er Church Admin­is­tra­tion Abroad, which lat­er was trans­formed into the Syn­od of Bish­ops of the Russ­ian Church Abroad.

We are not mark­ing the events that destroyed all the foun­da­tions of Pre-Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Rus­sia, and which hit extreme­ly hard on our dear Moth­er – the Local Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church – hav­ing pushed Her, togeth­er with the whole coun­try, onto a path of great suf­fer­ing, repres­sion, mar­tyr­dom and con­fes­sion. Rather, we raise up grat­i­tude to God, Who has pre­served us under the shel­ter of our pre­cious Ortho­dox Faith, in the tra­di­tions of the glo­ri­ous Russ­ian Church. We bow down before the mem­o­ry of those ascetics, who have care­ful­ly pre­served and increased our Russ­ian eccle­si­as­ti­cal inher­i­tance in the Dias­po­ra, who have sus­tained a spir­i­tu­al flame in our peo­ple scat­tered across nations, and who have nur­tured their flock’s tal­ents in the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions abroad.

Thanks to the grace of God, as expressed in the sac­ri­fi­cial labors of our pre­de­ces­sors, the chil­dren of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church, dis­persed among var­i­ous nations, were not dis­solved in the for­eign mass­es, like splash­es and droplets of water are dis­solved in the ocean.  Glo­ry to God, they have not dis­ap­peared, but rather have pre­served Holy Ortho­doxy and through it our cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal tradition!

Spiritually the Russian Church is indivisible: She is always one and the same Russian Church, no matter where we are.

The Holy Hier­ar­ch and Won­der­work­er John, Arch­bish­op of Shang­hai and San Fran­cis­co, says:

Our spir­i­tu­al uni­ty with the Holy Russ­ian Church is insep­a­ra­ble. There is no one for whom the suf­fer­ing of the Russ­ian Church, the tram­pling-upon of Her Holi­ness, can be more painful than for us, the sons of the Russ­ian Church. We are bound to Her through the uni­ty of Her God-giv­en gifts, the names of Her Saints, who are close and com­pre­hen­si­ble to us by their way of life, their strug­gle, lan­guage and ser­vice: our dear Saints. Spir­i­tu­al­ly the Russ­ian Church is indi­vis­i­ble: She is always one and the same Russ­ian Church, no mat­ter where we are.

Our church uni­ty helps Rus­sians remain Rus­sians, not to lose our nation­al char­ac­ter, not to be deper­son­al­ized amidst oth­er nations, not to lose our gifts, not to betray our path and call­ing… In our being scat­tered through­out the whole world, we do not sub­mit to the local Church­es because we have enmi­ty towards them, but because we pre­serve the Russ­ian Church and the attrib­ut­es of the Russ­ian soul.”1

Besides the preser­va­tion of the par­tic­u­lar fea­tures of the spir­it of our peo­ple, the beau­ty of the face of the Russ­ian Church and the inner mis­sion amidst its chil­dren, our fore­fa­thers gen­er­ous­ly shared the spir­i­tu­al wealth of Holy Rus­sia with the local inhab­i­tants of the lands of their sojourn, which is wit­nessed to by the numer­ous cit­i­zens from Europe, North and South Amer­i­ca, Aus­tralia and New Zealand who have dis­cov­ered the truth of Orthodoxy.

...the most important thing during this trial is to follow the Royal Path in life.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this jubilee year, not to men­tion the past Great Lent and the Feast of the Res­ur­rec­tion of Christ, have been obscured by the gen­er­al quar­an­tine con­nect­ed with the coro­n­avirus. I recall, dur­ing the most dif­fi­cult days of this destruc­tive pesti­lence, that one physi­cian, who is a parish­ioner, wrote to one of our cler­gy­man: “This pan­dem­ic should force us to think about much. It is a sig­nal from on High, so that we would begin to care for the most impor­tant thing.” And the most impor­tant thing dur­ing this tri­al is to fol­low the Roy­al Path in life, in our mutu­al rela­tions with our neigh­bor and in our ser­vice to the Church, avoid­ing pan­ic, on the one hand, and irre­spon­si­ble behav­ior, on the oth­er, while entrust­ing our­selves and oth­ers to the will of God, which is both all-good and salvif­ic. It is the car­ing and respect­ful inter­ac­tion we have for one anoth­er. It is regard for the preser­va­tion of uni­ty in our church com­mu­ni­ty, so that we can come out from this tri­al as a strong and gra­cious parish fam­i­ly, fol­low­ing the words of Blessed Augus­tine: “Most impor­tant­ly, uni­ty; sec­ond­ly, free­dom; and in all things, let there be love.”

Besides the quar­an­tine restric­tions that have influ­enced all spheres of our life, sev­er­al polit­i­cal process­es are tak­ing place that are dis­tract­ing us from what is most impor­tant. Today, it is very easy to become ensnared, to not trav­el by that path on which the Chris­t­ian is called to walk, and to mis­tak­en­ly accept a lie for the truth. We sense divi­sion through­out the entire world. In part, this is hap­pen­ing because faith has ceased to occu­py the pri­ma­ry place in life. Not only have the Chris­t­ian virtues of patience, humil­i­ty and love become scarce, but even basic moral standards.

Despite this fierce time for the entire world, we do not despair, and continue to hearken to the clear and decisive call to the struggle of our predecessors.

We should remem­ber that only good­ness and a sin­cere desire to help our neigh­bor cre­ate the foun­da­tion upon which it is pos­si­ble to build some­thing vir­tu­ous and wise in our soci­ety. Any­thing else shall most cer­tain­ly fall apart.

Pur­pose in life emerges when faith in, and the striv­ing towards, God are present, along with the ideals and val­ues that are con­fessed in the Gospel of Christ. It is imper­a­tive that we learn this inde­pen­dent­ly of where we live and what views we hold. Above all, we should at least remain hon­or­able and respectable peo­ple, inter­act­ing with our neigh­bors well-man­nered­ly and humane­ly, so that when they look at us Ortho­dox, they will not be ashamed to call us their friends. This is our spir­i­tu­al and moral minimum. 

Despite this fierce time for the entire world, we do not despair, and con­tin­ue to hear­ken to the clear and deci­sive call to the strug­gle of our pre­de­ces­sors, and, more­over, of our Direc­tress, who shows us in Her Kursk-Root Icon the path for our hum­ble ser­vice in today’s world. By Her inter­ces­sions and prayers, may God help us over­come the tri­als that have befall­en us, that we, com­ing out of them, would receive strength and edification.

May God grant that the planned cel­e­bra­tions and com­mem­o­ra­tive fes­tiv­i­ties be suc­cess­ful­ly moved to next year, tim­ing them for the Cen­ten­ni­al of the First All-Dias­po­ra Coun­cil (1921) and the For­ti­eth Anniver­sary of the can­on­iza­tion of the New-Mar­tyrs and Con­fes­sors (1981). May God grant that while look­ing upon us Ortho­dox, in place of hatred and enmi­ty, with­in the hearts of the peo­ple may set­tle warmth and a desire to live in a Christ-like man­ner and to be per­fect­ed in the virtues. This is some­thing I also wish for all of us in this Jubilee Year!

Ask­ing for your holy prayers, I remain the first ser­vant of the Holy Church and your con­tin­u­ous well-wisher,

+Hilar­i­on,
Met­ro­pol­i­tan of East­ern Amer­i­ca and New York
First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Church Abroad