Sunday, November 24, 2013

Glimpses of true Orthodoxy

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias (1946- ), posing with officers of the RVSN, the Military Strategic Rocket Directorate.
Lately I have encountered some very frightening evidence of a militant and unchristlike form of Orthodoxy that seems to be resurging in certain jurisdictions, now that they have been delivered from the scourge of Godless communism. It seems only a matter of time before this cancer may subvert true Orthodoxy, substituting cold formalism and pompous authoritarianism for the warm and merciful spirit of brotherly love and selfless leadership that I experienced when I first entered Holy Orthodoxy.
Whenever it seems we're going to lose that true Orthodoxy, I think on the saints I have personally known, and those I have read about, and I entreat the Lord to not leave us without such testimonies of true Christianity in our midst. Reading about times of true Orthodoxy in the past, helps keep it before our eyes. Here are some reminiscences of Sergei Fudel, from his book Light in the Darkness, glimpses of true Orthodoxy that I'd like to share with all my brethren in Christ…

I saw Father Alexei Mechev several times, at home and when he celebrated in church. I remember the childish pleasure he took in small courtesies extended to the least “important” of his visitors, holding their overcoats for them, etc.

“Some people call me clairvoyant,” he once said. “It is not clairvoyance, it's just knowing people. I can really discern what they feel, as if their feelings lay in the flat of my hand,” and he turned up his thin, dry hand to illustrate his words. He was very slight of build, quick in his movements, with a kind of irrepressible joyousness shining from his wise, all-seeing eyes. He was so different from the usual, somewhat sombre, clerical image of pre-revolutionary Moscow clergy, a real bearer of the “eternal joy” of the Easter service.

Before being ordained to the priesthood my father, Father Joseph Fudel, worked as a civil servant at the Moscow Court of Justice. He was recently married and lived with my mother in a small apartment. It happened at that time that a nun that he knew committed a sin of adultery, was expelled from her monastery and underwent much hardship. She was young and beautiful. My mother especially remembered her beautiful, long hair.

My father came home one day and told my mother that the young woman was in desperate need and homeless. “Will you mind if we take her in?” he asked. My mother burst out crying and hugged him, “in a strange feeling of gratitude,” she said later. The expelled nun made her home with my parents.

I believe that my father, who had never studied in a seminary, passed his final examination for the priesthood on that day. He was ordained by the remarkable Bishop Alexis of Vilno. In a letter we received after my father's death, one of his spiritual daughters wrote, “I remember his last sermon. He spoke about the Lord's Mother and seemed to be shining with joy and a sense of victory. He finished by quoting the words of Bishop Dimitri of Rostov, ‘Rejoice, sinners! The righteous will be led to heaven by Saint Peter the Apostle, and the sinners by the Mother of our Lord herself.’” This message I keep in my heart, when my heart is not dead, and on this note of joy I can end my recollections of him.

The first years after the revolution, 1917~1919, were a time of amazing spiritual uplift, a kind of lightheartedness. We stood at the threshold of a new period in church history. We were terrified, watching the great black clouds gathering, and at the same time we were breathing an air of unknown spiritual freedom.

Something in the life of the Church was returning to its pristine purity and simplicity, something was coming up from underneath centuries of secularization, hypocrisy and externalism. It was the time when Rublev's icon of the Holy Trinity had its heavily bejeweled silver covering of later centuries taken off. Human hearts were rediscovering the joy of the forgotten “first love.” The Church was rediscovering its sacrificial character. It was a frightening and joyous time for us who were young then.
—Sergei Fudel, Light in the Darkness, pp. 100-102.

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