On November 29, 2020, the 25th Sunday after Pentecost, the commemoration day of the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia officiated the Divine Liturgy at St. Alexander Nevsky Church near Peredelkino, reports the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church. At the end of the service, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church delivered the following sermon:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
In the passage from the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, which was read today during the Divine Liturgy, we heard the following words: “I beseech you, brothers, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (see Eph. 4: 1-3). These are amazing words. The Apostle does not ask, but begs people to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, that is, he speaks of the reality that alone is capable of truly uniting people.
There is a word that seems to cover the call of the Apostle Paul to establish a special relationship with each other. This word is “unanimity.” Sometimes it is replaced by the word “like-mindedness”, but like-mindedness is only part of what the word “unanimity” encompasses. Like-mindedness presupposes the presence of common thoughts and common beliefs. Like-mindedness is absolutely essential in life when people are united by common goals. For example, if those who are working on a difficult problem do not reach consensus, there will be no result. Like-mindedness is needed in scientific work, production activities, in many other areas of human life, where different people participate in a certain common process, because without like-mindedness this process is impossible.
But unanimity is something else entirely. Unanimity is unity in the spirit. And what is spirit? It is known that God is the Spirit, and all other explanations of the concept of “spirit” are imperfect. They are imperfect as much as human imagination and human knowledge are limited. We do not know what spirit is, because we do not know who God is in all His fullness; we know about God only what He Himself tells us about Himself. Unanimity, in all likelihood, is impossible without God. There can be like-mindedness. We know, as I have already said above, that much cannot be accomplished in human life without like-mindedness. But a single soul, and unity that people find in spiritual life, are a great gift from God.
That is why the apostle calls us to unanimity. Unfortunately, we think about the importance of unanimity most often only in extreme conditions, when, regardless of the depth of our faith, or even the presence or absence of faith, we realize that we cannot cope without unanimity. These are the words that Stalin addressed to our people at the beginning of the war: he said not “comrades”, not “citizens”, but “brothers and sisters.” Why did he say that? Because all conventions had to be pushed aside, because it was about mobilizing people for the most sacred cause: the salvation of the country. And where there are brothers and sisters, there is one flesh, one spirit, which means that there was a call for unanimity, for unity, which is difficult to achieve by human efforts, but which is a gift from God, and, probably, the Great Victory would have been impossible without it.
Unanimity is God’s gift, but we can find it only when we are ready to accept another person into communication with ourselves, when we are ready to share our thoughts, our life with another person, when we are ready to do good to other people. It is then that true unanimity arises, because there can be no unanimity among those whose activities are aimed at evil. No common spirit. For the spirit is from God. There cannot be common spirit among people who do evil.
We know how often maximum solidarity is needed in secular life, because the creation of political parties is ultimately aimed at ensuring solidarity to achieve their goals. And all those who are engaged in the creation of certain communities of people, built on solidarity, should remember that without unanimity there can be no solidarity, and unanimity comes from God.
Perhaps, our troubles, both past and present, were caused by misunderstanding of this? When we put all our strength to unite people to accomplish some activity, but find no unanimity? Unanimity is where God is, where there is faith, where there is genuine union of people solely for the achievement of good. Because unanimity cannot be used to achieve other goals by its nature.
We all should appreciate the wonderful words that we heard today and understand that unanimity – not only on the scale of the country or large groups of people, but also in one’s family and in monastic communities – is achieved in the same way. There can be no true unanimity without faith, without asking God for His help. There can be no unanimity without that goal-setting, which presupposes the achievement of good.
If we all feel this, if we realize the depth of the thought of the Apostle Paul, which he is addressing to us today, then much that seems difficult to achieve, including in communication between people, will become easily accessible. And may the Lord help us in this! Enlightened by the words of His Apostle, let us make our way of life in such a way that, in both joys and sorrows, we would rely on that unanimity that stems from the unity of the spirit and is aimed exclusively at achieving good. Amen.