Head of Russian Church Sermon: When Russia Faces Enemies, She Turns to God, and God Delivers Her (VIDEOS, Eng Sub)

Over the weekend, Russia celebrated her foremost saint, the 14th century monk, St. Sergius of Radonezh. Events commemorating St. Sergius spanned an entire week, with thousands of pilgrims flocking to  the monastery outside Moscow founded by him, the most important monastery in Russia, St. Sergius Lavra in Sergeev Posad. St. Sergius is  one of greatest founding fathers of the Russian state, who stood against foreign domination, launched a constellation of monasteries which grew into the rich Russian monastic tradition, and provided an unparalleled example of holiness in his life.

At Sunday liturgy, the head of the church, Patriarch Kirill, gave a short, powerful, sermon focused on Russia's current military and ideological conflict with the West. Kirill listed past attacks on Russia by enemies theoretically far more powerful than her, showing how in each case the Russian people appealed to God, who then delivered her against all likelihood. Specifically, he listed the Mongols, against whom St. Sergius stood, Napoleon, and WW2, comparing these to the current conflict.

Despite the fact that Russia suffered under atheist tyranny during WW2, Stalin, realizing he needed to rally the Russian people, famously opened all churches, and the Russian people, starved of spiritual life, flooded back into them, praying fervently for deliverance from what appeared to be an invincible German onslaught. Many Russian Christians believe that this was the real reason why the USSR ultimately triumphed in WW2, arguing that the confident and militarily superior German nation did not appeal to God.

Captions available in 14 languages, turn on in the video settings

The Patriarch plays an unusually influential role in Russian society and politics, and his sermons and statements are widely broadcast in the Russian-speaking world, including not just Russia, but Belarus and the liberated territories of Ukraine. Via internet, they also reach the Russian-speaking diaspora, some 100 million people, mostly in the countries of the former USSR, but also the 20 million Russian diaspora, mostly in Europe and the US.

At the end of this article there are more videos and photos which do a great job of conveying the people, atmosphere, and pomp and ceremony of the events, and works by Russian artists depicting the feats of St. Sergius.

From the sermon:

"The time when the Venerable Sergius carried out his life's work was very difficult. This was a time of domination over Russia by a foreign power, and Sergius could not help but be broken-hearted that his homeland, Holy Russia, was under foreign domination. And although that power did not encroach on the Orthodox faith, but it encroached on the material values of our country, it sought to plunder our Fatherland.

Sergius was aware of this danger, and so he prayed and labored in order that Russia might throw off the foreign yoke. And we know that St. Sergius blessed Dmitry Donskoy to go to the Kulikovo Field and give there the first battle to the Tatar-Mongols. It was a very risky venture, just as the actions of Sergius were risky. What if the enemy proved stronger again? What use then would be the prayers of Sergius, the prayers of the Church, the prayers of our people? That is why it was not only a military victory - it was a victory of the spirit, in a sense, a victory of our faith.

We know that after the battle at Kulikovo Field, there was no clear victor, but for Russia, which was in many ways inferior to the enemy, it was a real victory. It was a victory of the spirit, a victory of our national self-consciousness and, of course, a strengthening of our people's faith that God is with us, because even the mightiest and strongest enemy proved unable to crush Russia.

St. Sergius blessing Dmitry Donskoi before a battle with the Mongols which established Russia's independence from them.

A remarkable spiritual tradition of turning to God at difficult moments was maintained by our rulers and generals even after the events at Kulikovo Field. As a matter of fact, our people have never entered a fight with a mortal enemy without prayer. And how obvious it was when the terrible enemy, led by Napoleon, who had gathered under his banner the greater part of Europe, entered the borders of our Fatherland, seeking to do away with Russia forever as a powerful and strong state, and on his side was, no doubt, a force greater than that of our army! And what happened? Kutuzov prays to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and again our ranks are sprinkled with holy water, and again our soldiers, conscious that militarily they are weaker, march on the enemy, and the miracle of God is performed. And although victory was not achieved at Borodino, which would certainly testify to the defeat of the enemy, we know that the enemy was dealt such damage from which he did not come to his senses. Even the entry into Moscow and the subsequent plundering of the capital was of no avail, and the enemy was driven from the limits of our Fatherland.

The confidence of our generals and our army in the will of God was preserved even in the godless years. As I was told by people who went through a terrible ordeal during WW2, there are no atheists in the trenches. There a man is faced with death and all ideologies recede and the voice of conscience speaks. We know that at this time of the great and terrible war our people again turned to the Lord, and the heroism of our soldiers, the courage of all who fought the enemy, was strengthened, undoubtedly, by the power of God. And this combination of human strength and the grace of God has led to the destruction of the most terrible enemy that ever existed in history, who turned the spearhead of his struggle against our homeland.

Today we are experiencing different times. Today Russia is a powerful state, and it is unlikely that anyone will try to deprive us of our freedom and independence by force of arms. But in our wicked age there are many other ways to crush people, to deprive them of their national consciousness, to deprive them of their faith, to deprive them of their sense of patriotism. We know that many forces are working today to do just that to affect our people and our country. Why? Because we continue to be different. In "enlightened" Europe, faith in God is banished, educated people are ashamed to admit that they are believers, and that is a fact. But in our country, which has gone through years of godlessness and persecution, the faith of Christ is being strengthened in people. God grant that it will be so.

May our authorities, our army, our intelligentsia and all our people keep the faith in the Lord, the Orthodox faith, by which Russia has always been strong."

The Patriarch leading an evening service to St. Sergius. A well-shot video showing the monastery, pilgrims, and general atmosphere.

The Patriarch at the same service, venerating the relics of St. Sergius.

Scenes from the service.

St Sergius and Dmitry Donskoy before a battle with the Mongols by Ryzhenko

Scenes from the life of St. Sergius