Bulgarian Orthodox Old Calendar Church

Sermon on the Ascension of our Lord.
4th /17th May, 2007

THE GOD-MAN Christ, beloved faithful, came from the Truth, brought to us as a gift the Truth and returned to the Truth, raising up human nature, on the fortieth day after His Resurrection, to the very Throne of the Holy Consubstantial, Life-giving and Indivisible Trinity. The Saviour came not only to show us the path toward the Truth. He came, being Himself the Truth and the Way towards Her. Christ the Lord levelled the walls between the earthly humans and the celestial Truth. Ay, if we do not rise above the dust of the earth, if we do not rally courage enough to rise above our own nonentity, above our voluptuous desires for earthly things, we will be unable to walk on the path toward the Truth, we will be unable to be children of the Truth, we will be unable to live with the Truth and in the Truth. And the path, leading towards the Truth, leads all the way upwards and never downwards, just as Christs path led towards Golgotha. And our very first step of rising from the earth toward heaven, our very first breaking off from the earthly bounds, is our ascending on the cross, as Christ Himself was raised from the earth on the Cross, in order that He draw every man toward Himself: toward the Truth, toward the Way and toward Life. The path from the cross to heaven, to immortal life, is indeed sometimes of extensive duration and a long distance, very long, and sometimes it may be traversed in but an instant, as happened to many of the holy New Martyrs of Batak,1 whose memory we celebrate today, together with Christs glorious Ascension. Everywhere there was blood, shrieks and horror, some of the Martyrs bravely threw themselves into the embrace of Truth, others did this timidly and with resignation, orin a swoon of terrorlet themselves fall into the same embrace, not renouncing their Faith in order to be spared from death, but in an instant, passing under the blade of the axe or the yataghan, they became participants in the fullness of Truth and Life!

However, there is hardly anything half so grievous as one who, having once torn himself away from the earth and ascended his cross, has afterwards become frightened by the way of the Cross and the Resurrection, or has been hoaxed by the earthly desire to feel again the earthy dust under his feet. And lo! Today2 the Hierarchical Assembly of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad descends from the cross of their Orthodox witness. Today, by serving the Liturgy together, the mark is set for the Church Abroad to be grafted into the organism of the Moscow Patriarchate. Lo,today the chief priests seal their descent from their cross by exchanging the liturgical kiss with those who were calling them to descend from the cross as they themselves had done in the past. How painful is the lie, which in our days calls the descent ascent, and the fall rising! While the Hierarchs of the Church Abroad were raised from the earth on the cross of witnessing for Orthodoxy, they were called schismatics; when they descended from the cross, when they delivered to Caesarbe he even so an ecclesiastical Caesarwhat belongs to God, they immediately rose in his eyes and became his brethren. Indeed, is there anything more disheartening than to see how a lie bedecks itself with the garments of Truth? Indeed, those who descended from the cross pronounce, and will continue to pronounce, many words of fidelity to the Church and Orthodoxywords glorifying the exploit of the martyrs and confessors; but is it really not a descent to wreathe verbal praises for the spiritual heroes, having yourself fled in disgrace from the battlefield? Is it not immoralhaving yourself abandoned your witnessing of the Truth for the sake of earthy benefits and gainsto glorify the persons, who held the love of Truth higher than their own lives?

And yet, Caesar will not celebrate his victory for long. He shall not be jubilant for long, because what is Gods has been delivered to him by the hands of bishops, with the sole purpose of acquiring his condescension. For God is never mocked! And because the God-Man after His ascension abides with uswith all who, even though weak, aspire to tread along the path leading upward and only upward: to Golgotha and the Cross, and thence toward the heavenly homeland, from whence over us pour down the streams of the love of the New Martyrs of Batak, of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, of all the citizens of Heaven, who walked their earthly path in the never-setting light of the Way, the Truth and Life! Amen.

1 The Holy Martyrs of Batak - Bulgarian Martyrs from the village of Batak who were slain by Turkish forces in 1876, in an assault on the Christians which lasted from the 1st to the 4th May (Old Calendar). Their feast day is observed on 4th/ 17th May, which in 2007 was also the Great Feast of the Ascension.

2 It was on that very same feast day in 2007, - and it is for this reason that Bishop Photii contrasts the Martyrs of Batak with the betrayers of the Church Abroad, - that the Act of Canonical Communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was signed in Moscow, thus changing the historical course of the latter and bringing her into full communion with World Orthodoxy, its Sergianist heritage and its ecumenical activities. However, through Gods mercies, one hierarch, Bishop Agafangel, and numbers of the clergy and laity throughout the world did not accept this descent from the Cross. Some joined themselves to other Traditionalist Synods, and many formed a continuing Church Abroad under the omophorion of Bishop Agafangel. The traditionalist Synod now comprises twelve Bishops, and has monasteries and parishes throughout the world. The Synod which united with the Moscow Patriarchate also has twelve Bishops (with a thirteenth in retirement) and lives semiautonomously as part of the Moscow Patriarchate, though its exact purpose is unclear: many decisions are purportedly referred to the Patriarch himself, the churches directly under the Patriarchal administration even abroad seem to have a stronger presence, and, even eight years after the union, duplications of dioceses and administrations are still in evidence. So, one is left wondering: To what purpose this apparent duplication of administrations?

(c) Bulgarian-Orthodox-Church.org