Our Russian Orthodox Faith in the Holy Trinity has long been expressed by the words: ‘For the Faith, For the Tsar, For Rus’, which represent the actions of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit throughout the Russian Orthodox Lands all over the world. These words were expressed in recent history in the lives of the Three Saints of the Russian Emigration, the Three New Hierarchs, the Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy.
‘For the Faith’ was expressed by St Jonah of Hankou (+ 1925), the first saint of the Emigration. Fleeing as a refugee with other White Russians to China and absolutely faithful to the fullness of Russian Orthodoxy, within a very short time of becoming a bishop at a very young age in Manchuria, he established an orphanage, a school and a dining hall for the poor. Thus he combined the love of the Liturgy with practical love for our neighbour, as the Gospel calls us to do, for ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Matt. 6.33). This is indeed the essence of the Orthodox Christian Faith. St Jonah expressed faithfulness in the face of the betrayal of the Faith by others.
‘For the Faith and for the Tsar’ was expressed a generation later by St Seraphim of Boguchar (+ 1950). He fearlessly expressed the historic values of Russian Orthodoxy in his writings and was a Defender of Orthodoxy against the heresies of the renovationist Paris School in the 1930s and against ecumenism, notably at the Moscow Council of 1948. In his study ‘The Russian Ideology’, he asked: What is the role of the Tsar? He answered that the Tsar is the incarnation of our Faith in social, political and economic affairs. All this has become very relevant today, in the wake of the events that have followed the 2016 meeting in Crete organized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. St Seraphim lived for decades outside Russia, but never made any compromise with the Orthodox Faith at any time, including in the last few years of his life. He expressed bravery in the face of the cowardice of others before the political pressures of the powerbrokers of this world.
All of these values, ‘For the Faith and for the Tsar and for Rus’ were expressed by St John of Shanghai and San Francisco (+ 1966) two decades after St Seraphim. The first ‘universal saint’, as St John has been called, he defended the Orthodox Faith and the Tsar from their enemies. He lived all over the planet, celebrating the Liturgy and preaching in many languages, extending the understanding and practice of ‘Rus’ worldwide far beyond East Slavdom, which itself stretches from Carpatho-Russia to the shores of the Pacific. Thus, outside those lands we speak of American Rus, Argentinian Rus, Australian Rus, Canadian Rus, English Rus, French Rus, German Rus, Irish Rus, Italian Rus, Peruvian Rus, Swiss Rus and so on. Wherever, worldwide, there is the uncorrupted Christian Faith of the people of the Russian Orthodox world, there is Rus. St John expressed the truth which sets us free from the deceit of those who do not love Christ and His Holy Church.
The Three Saints and the Six Continents
The Russian Emigration expressed the truths ‘For the Faith, for the Tsar, for Rus’ with a more refined purity and much more extended significance than ever before. The three values of faithfulness, bravery and truthfulness were above all expressed by the Three New Hierarchs, after apostates expressed the opposite of ‘For the Faith, for the Tsar and For Rus’ in their ‘treachery, cowardice and deceit’ which caused the 1917 Revolution and brought persecution to the faithful. And these Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy completed their lives on three different continents: St Jonah in China in Asia; St Seraphim in Bulgaria in Europe and St John in San Francisco in North America. It is this, the global reality of Rus, which the Church inside Russia is now learning from us in our outposts here.
It is for this reason that we now have their Icon in our Church in Colchester, showing the Three Saints full length against the blue and green background of the planet – St John walking and blessing North and South America (where his parents went to live), St Seraphim walking and blessing Europe and Africa (where some of his spiritual children went to live), and St Jonah walking and blessing Asia and Oceania (where some of his spiritual children went to live). All of them walk beneath the Protecting Veil of the Directress of the Church here, the Kursk-Root Mother of God, the Icon of the Sign, She Who Shows the Way.
Thus, in this global age, we see all six inhabited Continents of the planet beneath the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, blessed by the Three New Hierarchs, the Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy, the Three Saints of the Emigration, St Jonah, St Seraphim and St John. Their feasts, on 20 October, 26 February and 2 July respectively are spread almost equally, every four months, throughout the Church year, and each represents a new generation of Church life. Together they represent the essential identity, unique service, planetary mission and future of our whole Russian Orthodox Church, come forth from the past of Imperial Russia, now living in the present and worldwide.
All three saints are part of the historic contribution of the twentieth century to the common worldwide mission of our reunited Russian Orthodox Church now and in the future. We know that our Russian Orthodoxy – like all Traditional Orthodoxy – is being persecuted by the alien and secular mentality which has infiltrated parts of the Orthodox world. What better symbol of our common struggle for the Faith than this Icon of the Three Saints, all the fruit of Imperial Russia, all the fruit of the One Russian Church, and all of them our offering to the whole world for our common future?
Parish of St John of Shanghai, Colchester, Essex
Feast of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia
25 January/7 February 2021