On June 21, the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, of All Saints who shone forth in the Russian land, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York celebrated Divine Liturgy in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City. Concelebrating with the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad were cathedral dean Archpriest Andrei Sommer and Protodeacon Serge Arlievsky (cleric of Holy Dormition Convent "Novo-Diveevo" in Nanuet, NY). The service was broadcast via livestream for parishioners who are still required to remain at home as a result of quarantine and other local safety measures.
Upon completion of Liturgy, Fr. Andrei addressed worshippers with a sermon. He noted that the Russian saints came from every social class ‒ there were saints from among the princely families, and monks, and laity, who were glorified in the ranks of the right-believing princes, the righteous saints, the venerable monastics, and the New Martyrs and Confessors. "And we must not only glorify the Russian saints, we must also emulate them, who by their example demonstrated for us true faith in God and how to live according to His commandments.
"One of the most important virtues of the saints is prayer ‒ that conversation with God, Who does not answer us with words, but answers with grace, strengthens us, comforts and teaches us.
"The holy righteous John of Kronstadt, that great Russian pastor, who saw great changes taking place in his country, said this: ‘Prayer is the lifting up of the mind and heart to God, the contemplation of God, the daring converse of the creature with the Creator… [Prayer is] the food of the soul.’ So also must we safeguard our own private prayer, our conversation with God, and our communal prayer in church. We must likewise emulate the piety of our saints, the aid that they rendered to the poor and the sick. Here in church we have the right hand of the Venerable Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth ‒ the same right hand with which she made the sign of the Cross over herself; the same hand that she stretched out to the sick and suffering. Saint Elizabeth, herself not Russian by birth, converted to Orthodoxy and, one might say, became Russian."
Fr. Andrei noted that the saints lived in various periods of Russian history and were witness to many disturbances: they beheld epidemics, wars, spiritual decline, and direct persecution. But they kept their faith.
"And we are being given such an opportunity in this complicated time. But we hope that in the coming days, we will be able to return to church. God allows all things for a reason. During the epidemic, we were all given an opportunity to acquire patience and concentration within ourselves, discerning the purpose of our short lives here on earth; to learn not to despair and not to lose hope, but to humbly accept the struggle given to us and the particular opportunity to be made perfect in holiness."
Fr. Andrei reminded the faithful of the words of the Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai & San Francisco: "Let us pray that the Lord send the spirit of the Russian saints into our hearts, that we living abroad might follow their example and remember that not in vain are we called the sons of Russia."
In the coming week, following the celebration of All Russian Saints, the faithful will glorify other Synaxes of local saints: on June 23 ‒ the Synaxis of the Saints of Ryazan’; on June 28 ‒ the Synaxes of the Saints of Pskov, Novgorod, Belarus, and St. Petersburg, the Synaxis of the Saints of the Lands of Udmurtia, and the feast of All Venerable Fathers of Vologda.