All Saints Of Britain
SERMON on the day of All the Saints of Britain and Ireland
20 June 1999
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
I will speak first in English and then in Russian because I feel it is immensely important for us to be at one at the very depth of our souls and lives on this day when we keep the memory of all the Saints of This Land.
I don't believe there is anyone in our midst who is a refugee in the sense in which my generation and that of my parents were after the Revolution, and therefore you do not probably perceive as acutely as we did what it meant to find ourselves in countries dispersed throughout the world, whose language we did not know, whose customs were strange to us, whose people did not see in us brothers and sisters of their own race, and how incredibly wonderful it was to come into all the countries of the West and discover two things. The one is that any country had had a period of time when the Church was undivided, and that we shared the Saints of those centuries, that we were at one with innumerable Saints venerated, loved, emulated by the people of this country and of other countries of the West. And also, how wonderful it was to realise that even when the Church found itself divided, and increasingly so through the centuries, there was one thing that united us inseparably at the very root of our being – that we were Christ's own people and that this people who first seemed to be strange to us, alien to us, were the people who through centuries had kept in this Land and in so many other Lands the faith in Christ as the Incarnate Son of God, the Saviour of mankind. To see in everyone someone who in Christ was a brother, a sister, a friend, from whom we were divided by the accidents of History, but with whom we were at one at the very depth of things.
We realised then another thing also, that it was not only the Saints of This Land and of other Lands whom we knew to be Orthodox Saints and their successors, who knowingly or unknowingly were belonging to other Churches, but that we were rooted inseparably, rooted deeply in Christ and that they were at one with us and were receiving us, strangers, as brothers, as sisters in Christ, not claiming from us unity of the faith, but giving to us from the depth of a common faith which we possessed the love, the compassion, the support which we so desperately needed. We can think of the Saints of This Land on the one hand as Orthodox Saints to whom we belong, with whom we belong, who receive us in the joy of brotherliness, of sisterliness, but also the innumerable Saints of later times with whom we have everything in common if we truly have in common a faith in Christ and a life worthy of Him and of this faith. The whole Land became to us not a Land of exile but a Land of Welcome; not a strange country, but a country where love was offered us, in the name of Christ, in the name of humanity.
And this is why this day, today, the day when we keep the memory of All Saints of Britain and Ireland, we remember not only with gratitude all these Saints who received us because we were our own and because we were their own, but all the people who have kept their memory and were receiving us in the name of Christ. How wonderful it was! And how easily we cease to realise this when suffering, agony, loneliness recede. It is easy now to come to Western countries for a variety of reasons, because practically no one is a refugee in the sense in which we were, rejected by our countries, deprived of our citizenship. A few are, but not a majority. And the few must be remembered and cared for.
At present a tragedy even greater than the one which the generation of my parents and grandparents experienced is taking place in the Balkans. There are refugees of all sorts; people who belong to all groups of humanity; they need our prayers whoever they are. They need compassion, they need understanding, they need that we should stand by them, they need that we should pray for the Saints of all the Lands of the West to extend their love and their mercy on those who are rejected by other human people, who are treated in a vile, in a cruel way by people who should in the name of Christ give their lives for them; or in the name of humanity, if Christ does not exist in their lives, see in each person a man, a woman, a child who needs compassion and love.
Let us today, when we remember the Saints of this Land who meant so much to us refugees of the early days, let us remember them with gratitude and pray that their blessing may come upon all of us, and extend beyond us to all those in the world nowadays who are refugees, homeless, persecuted, rejected people who need the compassion and the love of us all whatever the cost to our feelings, or the cost to our lives. Amen!