|Our Father in God, Patriarch of Moscow Alexis, Passes Away in the Lord|
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Again, the Lord has given us a sign of the end of the beginning of our unity in the Russian Church. Within the same year, the two great participants in the healing of a rift within the Body of Christ are called from this passing world into eternity.
The parallels with our late Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory are striking. He passed on the Sunday of Orthodoxy at the end of the first week of the Great Fast. The Patriarch went to his rest within the period of the feast of the Entry of the Mother of God into the temple, near the beginning of this Nativity fast. Both were in fragile health, but neither would allow this to impede their path as diligent arch-pastors, faithfully shepherding their flocks. They both followed the Lord’s leading in going about “doing good” until the end.
On the evening of Friday, December 6th, we served a pannikhida in memory of the just-reposed Patriarch. Those present included some few who would probably not have been with us were it not for the Patriarch’s labors, together with those of our late Metropolitan, to call all those of the Russian Church, both at home and in the diaspora, into unity.
We all pray together at the Divine Liturgy for a “Christian ending to our life, painless, blameless, peaceful and a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ.” As it was for our Metropolitan, so was this granted to our Patriarch. What better defense can be asked for than to have healed a tear in the garment of Christ?
When we were in Moscow in 2007, many of us for the first time sensed the real significance of what we are a part of in the Russian Church. In one day, the Feast of the Ascension, we had moved from a state of spiritual “siege”, that is, a growing sectarian mentality, into the fullness of the Church. Each little event was like a door opening into more and more light. In the vast space of Christ the Savior Cathedral, the Patriarch proclaims unity and healing in a classic Christian manner of beseeching the Lord for His help, calling to mind King Solomon’s beseeching at the dedication of the temple. Among the hundreds of clergymen to whom he distributes communion, he gives me the precious gift conveying in his expression the simplest heartfelt joy.
As we go forward in this Nativity Fast, the Lord, through calling out of this world of His great servant, has called us to pursue our prayer and fasting in preparation for the Incarnation of our Lord with greater focus. This is always what momentous events mean for the Christian. We, all of us together, should be about moving from darkness into light, from this world into the heavenly kingdom. As our late beloved Metropolitan has done, and now as our “great Lord and Father” has done, we too should go about in our lives “doing good” so that we can build up a good hope for our defense before the dread throne as they did.
May the memory of Patriarch Alexis be eternal. May our own way be as much in the way toward a blessed eternity as was his.