Looking Back, Looking Forward

On December 31, 2013, His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia celebrated a moleben [supplicatory service] in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Before the beginning of the moleben, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church addressed the flock with the following sermon:

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

According to established tradition, on New Year’s Eve we celebrate a moleben, asking the Lord’s blessing for the coming year. During these moments, it is natural for one to think about what is past – in that moment when the unseen, symbolic line separating one year of God’s goodness from another is crossed. Recalling everything that has transpired with us, with our country, with all of historical Rus’ – and also recalling what has transpired with the human race – we acknowledge that in the past year there was much that was good, but also much that was difficult and even terrible – yet we nonetheless give thanks to the Lord. We are alive and healthy, and even someone who might not be completely healthy today should still give thanks to the Lord, that by His mercy we have reached the end of 2013 and are stretching forth unto the coming year.

In the past year we celebrated the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’. This was an extraordinary jubilee, which we celebrated along with the entire fullness of world Orthodoxy in all the fraternal countries that exist on the expanses of historical Rus’. We celebrated in Moscow, Kiev, and Minsk, and thousands upon thousands of people gathered, helping us to recognize yet again our common participation in the entire millennial history of our Church and Fatherland. This celebration also helped us to see the hand of God, Who led and leads our peoples, regardless of many difficulties and many obstacles – leading us forward, according to the path known to Him alone.

In the past year we also celebrated the 400th anniversary of the enthronement of Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov. We paid tribute to the past and analyzed it, comparing it with the present, drawing from the past the wisdom, knowledge, and experience that was bound up with the many glorious deeds performed during the years of the Romanov dynasty’s rule.

In the past year a Council of Bishops was held that was of very great importance in the life of our Church. It confirmed the authority of new dioceses and the creation of new metropolias, promoting – and we can now already safely say this – the strengthening of the spiritual foundations of the life of our nation and the growth of many church ministries, which are so essential for the modern believing person.

By God’s mercy, this past year I accomplished a journey to the People’s Republic of China. This was the first visit of the head of the Church in the entire history of China and the first meeting of the head of the Church with the leadership of this country in the entire history of China. We very much hope that the good relations that now exist and are developing between Russia and China will also promote the growth of the Chinese Autonomous Orthodox Church. We pray that Chinese clergy will again celebrate the Divine services in the churches in China and that the Orthodox faith will be strengthened in the life of this great nation that is our neighbor and with which we now enjoy the best of relations.

There were many other events, including difficult ones. We need to recall the disaster that befell the Far East, the people who courageously withstood the elements, and the help that our nation showed to its brothers and sisters who suffered from this terrible natural disaster. This disaster stirred the hearts of very many and sent people on the path of performing good deeds.

We cannot but recall the terribly sad events associated with the end of the past year: the terrorist attacks in Pyatigorsk and Volgograd. By evil human will, completely innocent people were deprived of life. We understand that all this was accomplished in order to disorientate our nation, to scare it, and to make it incapable of actions of solidarity. We understand that, in some sense, without being official declared, there is a war underway against our country and people. The strength and energy with which these wrongful actions are being undertaken witness to the fact that these are not separate and unrelated incidents, but constitute a certain plan.

We believe that this plan will not be realized. Certain forces are encroaching upon the nation, which is under the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos. We have undergone more frightful trials in our history: both civil war and frightful wars. The city in which the last two terrorist atrocities have taken place in an example of our nation’s heroism.

We recall everything that we have undergone. We cannot, of course, pass in silence the recent events in Ukraine. We believe and hope that everything that is taking place today in this fraternal country, which is part of historical Rus’, will not shake our common spiritual unity or cause the destruction of the unity of our Church. We believe and hope that the fraternal relations of Russians and Ukrainians will improve and evolve, and that the result will be the flourishing of both countries.

Ahead of us is the unknown future. Scholars try to predict the development of events and futurists to describe the distant future, but no one in fact knows what it will be like, for the Lord is the Lord of history and in His hands is the historical process, of which people – and each one of us – are participants. We know for certain that life is where God is. We know for certain that death is where God is not. Therefore, in order to have hope for the future, we should rely primarily on Divine law, live in accordance with it, and transfigure our mind and heart. Then we will have a clear, peaceful, and prosperous perspective on life: for where God is, there is love, peace, patience, mercy, and the best of human feelings. So that these feelings might become our own, we must bow our heads under God’s majesty and accept His will and His law in simplicity of heart.

Now we will celebrate a moleben. Of course, let us recall in thought everybody and everything that was dear to us in the past year. And let us also pray together before the face of God in simplicity of heart for the coming year of God’s goodness. We believe that the Lord hears our prayer and inclines His mercy to our Fatherland, to all of historical Rus’, to our nation, and to each of us. May His mercy be poured forth upon us all, strengthening each one of us in his journey upon life’s path. Amen.

Translated from the Russian    

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