During the last few weeks the Orthodox world has been gripped with fear and uncertainty. The monks are being expelled from Kiev-Pechersk Lavra - the oldest and holiest monastery of all the Rus’ (that's right – the Rus’, not Russian Federation or Ukraine). The Ukrainian president gave them until March 29 to leave the Lavra forever.
For hundreds of years Orthodox monks had worshipped in these caves. One cannot help wondering if, back in the XI century, the first monk of these caves, Saint Hilarion, could possibly imagine the turmoil that will be upon his little cave in almost a millenia? Or his successors, the Venerable Fathers Anthony and Theodosius, who built the monastery around Hilarion’s cave - what would they think if they could see the future of their monastery? None of them ever imagined that the quiet and peaceful hollow near Kiev will one day turn into a gaping wound. Or that their descendants will one day become enemies.
Evgeny Golubinsky, a famous Russian Church historian wrote this about Kiev-Pechersk Lavra "the only monastery that was built not by people who brought ready money from the world, but by hermits who retired with nothing and then acquired gold and silver with tears and fasting".
Note once again – the Lavra was not built on money, but on tears and prayer.
That is, from the very beginning, the Lavra was the property of the Church, no matter which country its politicians began to consider it to belong to in the XXI century. Is it even appropriate to talk about the Church's belonging to any country while the Apostle of Christ taught that for God "there is neither a Jew nor an Ellin"? Christ, as we know, wore neither flags nor identification marks. And relics, icons and crosses can only be called "museum value" by a complete ignoramus.
These days, when the monastery’s future is uncertain, Orthodox people all over the world are exchanging rumors. The social media is buzzing: what's up over there? how is it going? what's new today? Prayers for the Lavra are the most sincere in all Orthodox churches these days.
The monks of Lavra are now living under immense pressure. The Orthodox community urges Lavra’s monks to stand firm, resist and defend their monastery, their home and the legacy of their Church. People are wondering, what can we do? How can we prevent the sacred places being violated?
Up to this day there seems to be no compromise in sight. Ukrainian parliament is calling for the security forces to evict the monks. The Kiev authorities promise not to use force. But who actually believes the authorities at all, except for the TV anchors of course?
This whole confrontation somehow seems familiar to those who are familiar with the Soviet history. We have seen this already: in the first years of Soviet power the monks were expelled, and the revision of church values was carried out – but alas, apparently history teaches us nothing. People are just unable to learn from history. To make sure of that it will suffice to look through the history textbooks of any troubled country.
So far, everything that is happening resembles the first part of a sad joke. It is about a drunken bully who entered the temple and began to mock the priest. The thug punched the priest in the face and began to laugh: "Well, Father,come on, turn the other cheek, as it says in your book!"
It seems that this is exactly what is happening now. The state acts as that thug, harassing the Church. But there this joke also has a second part which few people know about.
The priest hesitated for a minute. Then he sighed and suddenly turned around and punched the thug right in the jaw! The bully collapsed on the floor, rubbing his cheek, counting his remaining teeth. And the priest, in response, says in a booming bass voice: «With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again».
The Gospel is a great book because it has the answer to any question. If only people really read it.