In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
We live at a time when Christians represent an ever-decreasing minority; and in this minority we Orthodox make up a small community, both among Christians and among the secularized world. And how timid we are, how timid we are to declare what we are; how little determination there is in us to stand up in our Christian character before the face of the world, which is alien to us and alien to Christ, our God, our Savior, our Lord, and our brother in humanity!
As timid as we are to express our faith, so too are we timid to live according to the clear dictates of the Gospel and make known – not in words only, but by our entire lives – that we are in the world, but not of the world; that we are forerunners of the Kingdom of God, the people sent into the world to conquer it for God: but not by force, but by giving our lives for the world.
The Life of St. Olga, whose memory we celebrate today, should be for us both a judgment and an inspiration. Olga was a Christian two generations before the Baptism of Russia; she was a Christian in isolation among the courtiers of her husband, who despised Christianity as the religion of the weak, laughing at it, and along with his companions ridiculing Princess Olga and her faith. And she stood alone, never wavering; she was not timid to declare who she was, proclaiming her faith in the One God, the Lord of lords, the King of Kings, and also the Savior of the world.
What a lesson this is for us! We live in a world that sometimes mocks us, that lives as if the Evangelic values had lost all meaning – but we are not threatened by any real danger. Even now there are countries where it is dangerous to be a Christian; not long ago declaring oneself a Christian in Russia could have been dangerous and could bode trouble both for oneself, and for one’s family, and for one’s friends; and yet people stood steadfastly and believed. And, following the example of St. Olga, it was women who withstood: it was women who saved the Church and Russia by their heroism and their readiness to accept suffering and to give their life for the Church and for God.
We should give very serious thought to our timidity, to our fears, and ask ourselves the question: why is this so? Is it because we are so afraid? Is it because fear has become so deeply ingrained in our flesh and blood? Or have we still not understood anything? Or have we forgotten who the Lord Jesus Christ is for us, with His place somewhere in the margins of our life, but not at its core, with Him not reigning as Lord and God in our hearts and minds, or in all our lives? We should ask ourselves what He means to us, if we are so afraid of smiles, of caustic remarks, of scornful attitudes – since, after all, nothing more dangerous is going to happen to us in the conditions in which we live.
Do we really treat people whom we really love this way, when they are mocked, discredited, or scolded? Do we really remain silent? Do we really give in to the crowd, leaving those whom we love to stand alone? Do we really allow that the names of our mother, bride, husband, wife, or dearest friend be pronounced with a sneer and accompanied by obscene and degrading jokes? No, we could never bear this; at the very least I hope that no one of us would tolerate this! But at the very same time we so easily and calmly bear this when it comes to Christ, to God and His righteousness, and to what it means to live according to God! Does this mean that so many people and so many things are infinitely more important to us than the God Who so loved us that He called us into being in order to give Himself in our hands? And when we turn away from Him, each of us individually and all of us together – the One who came into the world to share our destiny, to live and die for us and along with us?
Let us give thought to this, because there stands before us and towers above us in her full height the image of St. Olga, alone in a sea of pagans – and not in a society like ours that already has within itself the Gospel leaven, and where we have so much in common with the current pagans. She stood alone and did not waver; and therefore she was able to so withstand that she was able to convey to her grandson Vladimir a vision of the world that has never faded away and did not give him any rest until he found the answer. She revealed to him a new dimension of humanity and awakened in him a hunger for greater things, things more truthful and holy than the false gods that his father honored with his entourage. And because she was able to withstand ridicule among the courtiers of her husband, to her grandson was revealed God in Christ and, by his appeal, he opened the hearts of millions of people and the vast expanses of the Russian dominion, where Christ the Savior came to reign.
Let us learn from this woman, who was both more fragile and stronger than all men: like the Mother of God, she was stronger than any fear and hesitation. Let us learn to stand alone and to proclaim our faith, but not in words – words no longer convince anyone; people have heard enough misleading, beautiful words – but by living in a Godly manner, as Christ’s very own people. Amen!
Translated from the Russian.