EASTER 1974, April 14
ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY BLOOM'S SERMON
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
On this radiant night on which we celebrate the victory of life over death, the triumph of life, when no sorrow remains unconsoled, no tears undried, when the heart rejoices in the victory of God, I turn to you, the congregation, the bishops, the pastors and the faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe, with a message of farewell. In fulfillment of my own wish the Holy Patriarch has released me from the office of Exarch of Western Europe. I remain as before ruling Archbishop of the Surozh diocese – Archbishop of Great Britain and Ireland. For the last time I want to say a farewell and a greeting to the widely scattered flock the Lord has entrusted to me.
When many years ago during the terrible days of the early emigration a small number of Russians remained faithful to the Church of the Russian Patriarchs we did so for two reasons. Firstly, because in those days the Russian Church was in a terrible and poverty-stricken state. The destruction of the churches, the persecution of believers, suffering and sorrow engulfed the Russian faithful. Those whom the terrible events of the Revolution forced to remain outside our country as outcasts and orphans, longing for the mother country and the mother Church, were perhaps more conscious than ever of being united. Their love, devotion and loyalty rose to perhaps unprecedented heights. Russians had no wish to leave the Church which had been their mother, which had borne them in Christ, and which was then bearing a heavy cross of sorrow. Neither did we wish to be divided from the Russian faithful. Divided by circumstances and events, we remained one at the Throne of the Lord, in the sacraments of the Church, living __ here as exiled Russians, yet blessed by the prayers of our mother-land and our mother Church. Many, many years have passed since then. The circumstances of our lives in the West, the position of the Church in the Soviet Union and the condition of the faithful have all changed. But the links which then held us together – of love, loyalty, devotion, of the heart which never forgets – have not weakened. The Patriarchal Church abroad has striven and strives with all its might to be one with the Church in our motherlands. And we rejoice that no forces, no obstacles have been able to divide us one from another.
One of the Church’s hardest and most dangerous temptations is to confuse the earthly with the heavenly: to confuse love and loyalty to the motherland with love and loyalty to Christ and the Kingdom of God. The Lord has placed us who lived abroad in an unprecedented position; our hearts, our minds and actions may be conditioned entirely by our love for our country, and by out love of Christ and the Kingdom of God, nevertheless we are free from the temptation of confusing the earthly and the heavenly. The Church is our heaven on earth. Now as before perhaps more than ever before, we understand the distinction between the heavenly and the earthly. People of every conceivable nationality and political and social condition are and always have been united in the Patriarchal Church. We have nothing earthly in common. What unites us is only the purity of the Orthodox faith, the unity of the sacraments and our allegiance to the Church which gave us Christ and gave us life. The early Christians in the first centuries had nothing in common but their unity in Christ. They belonged to an infinite variety of classes, nations and tongues. But Christy their God was one, and the same Spirit moved in their hearts and their lives. It is the same with us today. The parishes of our Patriarchate are not composed of Russians only; there are fewer and fewer Russians, and those lean ever closer to the grave as old age undermines them and death takes its toll. Their descendants of the second, third and fourth generation, while loving their distant and unknown country, become more and more the children of their new motherlands of the West. And we are joined daily by more and more of our western brethrens to whom the Russian diaspora, the Russian Cross, Russian death and suffering have brought Orthodoxy, the true profession of faiths the full life of the Church.
We are parting now, and my last word is about this unity. Preserve this unity with the Russian Church, with the mother Church. Preserve unity amongst yourselves, all of you who have come from the four corners of the earth and gathered together in the life-giving inspiration of the Holy, All-Creative Spirit, the Spirit of God. For all of us, Russians and non-Russians, what happens on Russian soil is of vital importance. We cannot think without gratitude and awe of the country which provided the people who gave the Orthodox faith to generation after generation, nation after nation. We cannot think without awe and reverence of the Church that has survived the dreadful test and remained as faithful in peace and glory as in persecution and horror.
What is happening in Russia is not a metaphysical encounter, not a speculative confrontation of differing ideologies, a confrontation between God and godlessness, faith and anti-faith – but a confrontation of living people, carriers of faith and carriers of faithlessness. Let us pray for all of them that God may grant the former enlightened, powerful, illuminating faith, and the latter, through them, in joy or sorrow, to meet God the Living Saviour.
I call on everybody, both the children, the brethren of our Exarchate of Western Europe and those who are not yet part of it, to become as one, to unite in one prayer, one love, that the Lord may triumph, that God may triumph in our hearts, in our lives – in other words, that all-conquering love may reign.