Address to the God-loving Flock of the Australian Diocese of the RTOCA


Much Esteemed Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!


The grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered you together; you responded, labored to achieve this God-loving endeavor and arrived at the convention.  May God grant, that this conference would give everyone the opportunity to seriously realize that the Church has ALREADY entered into the final era and all of us face a special podvig.


The betrayal by our former hierarchs and pastors not only ripped apart the Church Abroad, but our individual peace, our spiritual serenity and now continues to trouble and oppress our souls.  We are not only scattered in the diaspora, but we are in a state of upheaval.


In order that we correctly understand what we must do, it is imperative to understand with whom it is that we are waging battle.  It is said, that communism has already collapsed, but, in essence, it has merely concealed itself.  It would have seemed that after the cessation of persecutions, Russia would again become the bulwark of Orthodoxy.  But instead of this, from our unfortunate Russian, the ancient Serpent has crawled out with the goal of devouring the souls of the believing Orthodox Christians living abroad.  This visibly demonstrates how terrible the times are in which we live.


We must understand that the main culprit of this latest demonic activity is that ancient Serpent, who beguiled our forefather Adam.  Satan does not stop at anything!  Having destroyed the Church Abroad, he now is attempting to cause schism among those who did not succumb to the red beast.  Now he is attempting to influence the soul of each one of us, using our weaknesses, in order to further rip apart the Robe of Christ.  Many here in the USA, and probably among you in Australia, are becoming despondent concerning the future existence of the Church and do not see anything encouraging in the future.  A dark futility rises before our gaze.  We look at the younger generation, our replacement, and think that even previously it had been difficult to resist the temptations of this world, but now the temptations have penetrated into the Church itself!


We can resist this temptation ONLY through intensified prayer.  We must completely give ourselves over to the will of God.  His ways are not revealed to us, but we know, that God will not abandon us and the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.  This difficult situation is temporary.  This is occurring by God's permission.  There is nothing accidental, particularly with regards to His Holy Church.  It is completely possible that currently a cleansing of the Church of Christ is taking place.  Those who left were not faithful servants of the Church – not pastors, but hirelings.  And those lay persons who followed them showed that they are neither hot nor cold and demonstrated their indifference.


In addition, despondency like a dark cloud continues to hang over our heads here in North America, when we see that time goes by, years go by and those who left us with the Abroad traitors have become accustomed to the heresies of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Having squandered the grace of the Holy Spirit which directs each one of us, they are no longer capable of realizing their mistake through their own personal efforts and resist the enemy's force.  Very few of them, having come to their senses are returning into the bosom of the True Church of Christ.


And the overwhelming majority of those new émigrés who appear in our church, came to the USA, Canada and other prosperous countries for economic reasons.  They seek either worldly well-being, or simply cultural interaction with “their own” Russians.  What concerns their spiritual and church life, one can express using their own words:  “We have no problem with the Truth of Christ.”  In deed, “piety has become impoverished”.  “The harvest is great, but there are few workers.”  There is neither time, not strength to tangibly confront this apostasy.  Nevertheless one must not despair in the face of such a difficult and humanly impossible task.


Let us direct our attention to the teaching of St. Ignaty Brianchaninov:

“Apostasy is permitted by God; do not be tempted to stop it with your feeble hand... distance yourself, and preserve yourself from it; and that will be sufficient of you.  Know the spirit of the times, study it, so that you may avoid its influence as much as possible.”

By thinking in this manner, our thoughts involuntarily return to the initial question:  “what should we be doing?”  What is this “special podvig” mentioned above?

The Fathers of the Church say:  “When Christ comes to judge everyone, will He find faith on the earth...  there will be only few.”  The flock will be very small, however, at the same time Christ says:  “But the gates of hell will not prevail over My Church.”

Therefore, primarily we must not be troubled because there are so few servants of Christ.  This was meant to be.


Secondly, the Church of Christ will exist until the Second Coming – either with our participation OR WITHOUT OUR PARTICIPATION!  Blessed is he who treats the burning  Lamp of the Church as the wise virgins of the scriptures did.  We have no greater task, nor can we have a greater task than to remain in this True Church!


What is this “special podvig”, which we must undertake?  One must expect, that soon vicious persecutions will begin against those who refuse to bow their heads before the anti-Christ.  The Church will go underground.  Openly celebrated divine services will cease.  Individual local churches will no longer be able to interact either personally, or by letter or by telephone.  The administrative portion, hierarchical councils, synods and schools will disappear, but nevertheless the ESSENCE of the Church will be the same, as it was during all other persecutions.  How should one understand the essence of the Church?


Clergy, through the Holy Apostles are given the grace to call upon the Holy Spirit, and through the prayers of the clergy, the Holy Spirit accomplishes the Church Mysteries.  Almost all the Mysteries – baptism, chrismation, confession, marriage and others in some way affect us and exist for our personal salvific needs.  All of the Mysteries, except for one:  THE HOLY EUCHARIST.  No matter how strange it may seem to you, but the “secret” prayers of the Eucharist during the chanting of “It is  meet and right” and “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth” are not directed toward the Lord Jesus Christ, but toward God the Father.  During this time, in the prayers, the priest thanks God the Father, that He so loved the world, “that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that each one who believes in Him will not perish...” Our Savior was the humble sacrifice for us.  Despite His indescribable Essence as the Son of God, He was for us the image of meekness.  “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt.:11:29).  He did not seek His own glory, but said to the apostles:  “He (the Holy Spirit) will glorify me”.  Since the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends upon us sinners when we perform this (Eucharist) in remembrance of Him.  Through this Mystery, through this action of the Holy Spirit “The Father is known and the Son is glorified”!  (Stichera of the Praises of Holy Pentecost).

And so, the ESSENCE of the Church is namely the salvific Eucharist.  Through this “We announce His death; we confess His resurrection”.  The angels in the heavens and we on earth glorify the Redemptive spiritual feat of Christ.  In this manner, “all creation hymns God Who appeared in the flesh”.  There is not nor can there be anything more majestic that this glorifying in thanksgiving of the King of Glory for His salvific sacrifice, and unification with Christ through Holy Communion.  This is the very essence of the Church!  The Eucharist must and will continue right up until the  Second Coming.


The mandatory podvig of each one of us is to apply every effort to being a participant of the Holy Liturgy, especially on the Lord's Day, on the seventh day which is designated for this purpose;  for the serving of the Liturgy is not only the duty of the priest, but of all the faithful:  baking prosphoras and assisting the priest in other responsibilities.  Women, in emulating the Women Myrrh-bearers must maintain the beauty of the church.  All, who are able must participate in reading and chanting; also, supporting the Church through donations or work.  Everyone must maintain this pearl – the Truth of Christ and preserve love.


If this is greater for us than anything else on earth, then God's care for us in these difficult times will provide all else.  No matter how difficult and sad all of this may be, we must not become downcast, but preserve that which is commanded us by the Holy Spirit.  We must not forget that the Church is not ours, but Christ's!


May God grant that your conference lift your spirits.  May God grant you a peaceful and fruitful gathering.


May God bless and have mercy on all of you.


+Bishop Stefan,

of Trenton and North America                                     December, 2011