The blood shed on our lands cries out to Heaven for vengeance and the Lord says: “I will repay”

31 October 2012
A sermon given by Father Georgy Kochetkov, spiritual director of the Transfiguration Brotherhood, before the Memorial Service on the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Soviet Repression (30 October 2012)

Since 1991, in Russia the 30th of October has been a Day of Remembrance for the Victims of political repression. October 30th has been marked for this purpose since 1974, when, at the initiative of dissident Kronid Lyubarsky and other prisoners at the Mordovian and Permian prison camps, “Political Prisoners’ Day”, as they called it, was celebrated for the first time by collective hunger strike and the lighting candles in memory of innocent victims. On the same day, Sergei Kovalev organized a press conference in Moscow at the apartment of Andrei Sakharov, informing the general public of the situation. Documents from the camps were displayed, statements were made by Moscow dissidents, and the latest issue of “The Chronicle of Current Events”, a clandestine human rights bulletin published between 1968 and 1983 in which the situation was described, was displayed. On this day, the Transfiguration Brotherhood remembers all innocent victims and all those killed during the Soviet era. Members of the Brotherhood in different cities organize memorial readings of the names of those killed, and father George Kochetkov celebrates a memorial service and preaches. Here follows his sermon from 2012.

Brothers and sisters, let us, before starting our prayers, light our candles and think of those who we are going to mention today during our prayers, whose names cannot be counted. There are some people who make noble attempts to recall at least a small number of those who were killed for no particular reason and those who suffered during that era of godless, Soviet power. The noblest of attempts have been made to read out the names of at least those who sacrificed their lives – who were put to death by force and accused of crimes they did not commit. At the same time, there are very few people who have any way of knowing those who bore these names, though we are trying to learn more and more about them – about those who suffered and died and gave the larger part and often the best part of their lives to insane construction projects promoting gigantism and the idolatry of man himself.

And yet we remember them all. We know that there were millions of them – tens of millions – and yet we cannot enumerate even the saints alone, those who gave their lives specifically for Christ. Everything became confused in that black storm of the XX century, when people denied God, when man decided to fight with God – and if not directly with God Himself, then with His Image in the human person. Any manifestation of the Image of God was often punished in the cruelest manner. Of course, one wants to understand how this could ever happen, especially in a country which desired the salvation of the whole world, which wanted, itself, to live in service of the salvation of all peoples – granted, in an idealistic, starry-eyed way, not cognizant of the full strength of evil or the depth of the nightmare of the pit of hell. Perhaps one of the main reasons was this very desire. Evil revealed itself and hell arose, reminding us of its existence and showing itself to all, in such a way that no one even wanted to think about the image of God in the human being any more! Each person was to be no more than a brick in the coherent structure of the communist paradise, to think like everyone else, to act like everyone else, to look like everyone else, and all this had to be characterized by a certain opposition to God and neighbour. A person had to live without either God or neighbour; all surrounding people had to be enemies, traitors, spies, collaborators, informers, unscrupulous and godless people. This was the aim of that all-destructive apparatus.

It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth to realize that to a large extent this aim was achieved. Because of the scale of the damage done, world history was affected and will continue to be affected for some time to come. It’s grievous to think about the number of victims who were sacrificed in our country – the largest country of the world – and taunting to think that this happened at the very beginning of its ascendance, when our country had every chance to enrich all humanity with true achievements in culture, art, the sciences, engineering and technology – and to set free that very image of God in the human being, which had before too often been trampled under foot. But all these riches were destined for oblivion and became no more than dust and ashes. Our entire land was drenched in blood; people of all social classes and nationalities suffered. It was necessary to eradicate the very memory of the former Great Russia and the great Russian people – to set everybody against everybody else. Civilizational shifts occurred: Russia's fall was followed by the fall of neighboring peoples and countries, such as Germany, for example. Other forces, other cultures and nations rose to the top, bringing very different values, images and spirits, which now feed the modern world, or against which it fights, often in a barbaric way. The world was plunged into darkness, as H.G. Wells predicted of Russia. And he was right, as we know. Neither free lightbulbs for peasants (“лампочки Ильича”) nor the building of new hydroelectric stations could ever dispel this darkness.

Even until this very day, our country has not freed itself from the consequences of this hellish time. There are still no signs of the emergence of a real country, nor that the people living in this country are a united, healthy, alive people – whatever they are now called – “Russians” or something else. Our country is once again on the very edge of survival: either it will have a future – having freed itself from the post-Soviet syndrome in all areas of life – or it won’t. So much here depends upon our repentance. The church must begin with itself, showing the world an example of repentance, as well as an example of prayer for all victims, regardless of their faith! We pray for all innocent victims, because, alas, among the victims there were also those who suffered for their own sins and crimes. God alone knows their eternal destiny, but we are called upon to pray for the innocent victims – for those who were tortured and killed for what they did not do; for those who were not part of that infernal machine.

At present, our church as a whole is unable to bear this cross, but someone must begin to bear it. There are various individual enthusiasts, honest people, sometimes not even very religious, who don’t really know very well who they are – Christians or non-Christians, Orthodox or non-Orthodox, baptized or not baptized. But any who have a conscience – who breathe the air of freedom, hope, trust and love – cannot ignore the call of previous generations: to pray for them and for the country and to work, in their place, toward this country’s restoration by first restoring themselves and the people around them in the spirit of the life that should have prospered in our land a century ago – which had started to bloom but was killed by the brutal frosts of our recent history.

The Lord has revealed new pathways to us. We cannot now – standing on the road and holding a plow – turn back. But for us this repentance and prayer for the innocent victims is not a prayer of the past and for the past, but a prayer for everything current, real and genuine in our lives – it is a prayer to replenish what was lost, perverted, distorted, warped, disfigured, soiled, mutilated and killed. A multitude of holy martyrs and confessors – an innumerable multitude. We will never learn even half the names of these saints. They inspire us with their courage and faith, and they lead us forward so that we fear nothing, irrespective of the methods used to frighten us, no matter what threat we might face in serving God and the Church. We must have both feet on the ground and, united with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit we must go – go fast, together, in order to experience the fullness of God's Kingdom. We should be grateful to all those who gave their lives because internally they refused to consent to the hellish evil of the atheist Soviet regime with its lies, predatory and perverted ideology, misanthropy, and opposition to God.

As it happens, almost every living person nowadays has someone to recall – some have a greater number, and some have fewer. We are going to remember these people now: people we knew, people about whom we have heard or read, those about whom we know nothing, and those of whom only the mortal remains are left to be seen. The blood shed on our lands cries out to Heaven for vengeance, and the Lord says: “I will repay”'. It is not for us to punish the criminals who served this XX century hell or who serve its modern equivalent; but we must be free from this poison, from this darkness, and from this hopeless oppression. We must be free from unbelief, distrust, envy, cruelty, and all unrighteousness. We cannot make ourselves comfortable at home until the Lord avenges this greatest of evils – this greatest of crimes within human history – in comparison with which even the cruelest regimes of the XX century in other countries fade in value and acquire only local significance.

The Russian disaster must not be just a warning to those now living, it must also be an inspiration through the example of the faithful saints. Without us, without our testimony, this example will not be there, which is why – as always according to the Orthodox tradition – we will start with ourselves. And, starting with ourselves, we will begin with a prayer.


After the memorial service and before lighting the votive candle

The wonderful tradition of lighting candles is both a church tradition and a tradition which originates from a time when people were suffering at the hands of the atheist regime in 1974. This combined tradition has the power of testimony; it allows everyone to strain their memory and invites everyone to reveal the light in their own lives, keeping in mind that each of us has to live more than one life on earth – a life united with the lives of those who did not manage to live out their lives, who did not sing their song till the end, whose lives were taken away by force in either a direct or a figurative way. We are responsible for those who no longer looked forward to a time when they might be openly remembered. Let each of us, always, remember those many millions. Let each of us join their sacrifice and make it a combined and common sacrifice to God, pure and undefiled. Let each of us be not afraid of this tension and its consequences, however frightening and impossible they may seem to us at times!

No fear of hell can ever overcome the love of Christ. This has been proven to us by the holy new martyrs and confessors, revealed and unrevealed, known and unknown to us. Their heirs, their witnesses – even if only a small number who have lived until our times – give clear and unambiguous testimony. Let us now, as we uncover the common candle whole each carrying his own candle, pray in silence or aloud, openly or secretly in our hearts, remembering all those who have asked to be remembered, perhaps while looking at the sky, or perhaps even without the chance even to do this!

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