On April 22, 2023, Archbishop Artemy (Kishchenko) of Grodno (hierarch of the Belarusian Church) passed away to the Lord. He gave interviews to Pravmir more than once, and many of his wise thoughts will always be relevant. Let’s remember them. And let us remember Vladyka Artemy in prayers.
About our Christianity
We light candles, read the entire prayer books so that “everything is fine.” All these paraphernalia, the fulfillment of all these prescriptions, we see as a kind of guarantee of protection from life’s problems.
It is very calming, I would even say lulling. And under these unctuous, mournful chants, our conscience slowly falls asleep and forgets that Christianity is constant tension, constant work on oneself, for which no one outside will praise.
Something needs to be done about this situation. Of course, there is no second baptism, just like there is no second birth. But there is resuscitation, when a person finds himself in a critical situation between life and death and, in the course of the doctors’ operational actions, returns to normal again.
Many lay people have forgotten that the Church is something more than a “funeral service bureau”, that everything that we light candles so diligently about – health, well-being, money, success, etc. – all this is not a value for a Christian, and none of this was promised to us by Christ.
Ultimately, this contributes to the fact that religion is no longer perceived as a living communication with God, but either as a part of culture or as a national idea. <…>
This is the sobriety we need to take care of. Or rather, a new generation of priests and Christians themselves. Let there be few of them, let there be at least 12 of them in every city, but real Christians, and this leaven will be enough to raise the whole dough.
God knows His. And it is important for us that the persecuted Church is the triumphant Church. When the Church rots, the Lord sends her a revival through persecution. We know how our Church came to life in the period of the 20th century and how, on the contrary, in the period of freedom, forgotten, seemingly already dead sins returned to us.
About sincerity and adaptability
Christ Himself commanded: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mat. 18:3). To be a Christian means to be pure, open, spontaneous. And that means to respond to everything just as sincerely and directly, not to prevaricate and, most importantly, not to compromise with anything that is contrary to internal convictions, but promises external benefits.
And today we are all chameleons. Before saying anything, let’s think ten times, no matter how something happens, and how to say it in such a way that it would be as profitable and safe as possible. The child, on the contrary, always says exactly what he thinks. And that’s exactly what the Christian approach to life is – not to be afraid of anything, because Christ is with you.
Often, even in the Soviet period, and even in church terms, we were engaged in simple opportunism, justifying ourselves by the fact that it was necessary to save churches, it was necessary to save the lives of priests and parishioners, and for this we were ready to make any compromise, any concessions, sometimes to the detriment of our spiritual state. .
Martyrdom speaks of the opposite – no compromises, no concessions, only complete surrender to the Truth of God. This is the only way to remain a Christian when you don’t mimic the changing market conditions.
There is no need to worry about the Church beyond measure – Christ gave a promise that “the gates of hell will not prevail against her” (Matt. 16:18), which means that He Himself will help and protect her. The Church stands on the blood of martyrs, and not on opportunism. Adaptation is precisely born out of distrust of God. This is nothing but a loss of hope, an attempt to “settle” everything on our own, without His help.
It’s hard to face indifference. When the shepherd is indifferent and does not want to do anything, when “my hut is on the edge, I only baptize and crown” – this is not pastoral work, but church craftsmanship.
And all this should be calmly endured, without emotions. I want to immediately crack and shout “Get out!”. Put another. But in front of me is a living person. Maybe in a few years it will turn into something beautiful. Just not today.
In general, it is very difficult in itself to comprehend the essence of Christianity, which we actually don’t think about at all, to search for God in ourselves and to understand the tasks of pastoring. It is difficult not to “sag under the changing world”, and even more difficult to change it…
Christians pray first. I know that the call to prayer for many pastors sounds like an excuse, but for the parishioners it has already set the teeth on edge. But it is the greatest weapon that we ignore. It has real power. In this prayer, we demonstrate our solidarity, that we are not indifferent to what is happening.
About the missionary work of everyone
It is always worth remembering that missionary work is not the work of just a few people in the Church. It is the business of every Christian: to preach Christ by his life.
Regardless of our place in the Church, we must remember that each of our specific ministry: priest, bishop, cleaner, bell ringer, reader, etc. — is not limited to its independent function. They cannot be separated from our main and common service to all Christians – to be the salt of this world.
I have been in the hospital four times this year. And all because of the experience! Of course, there were many important church issues and other problems, but we must always remember that the Church does not stand on us, but Christ preserves it. And in general, not everything in this life depends only on us. So take care of yourself and take care of your health! The believer knows that he lives under the gaze of God. And if so, why should he worry too much? Own sins – that’s the only reason for the experience. And the rest – no matter what happens, any difficulties, any difficulties – everything has its own educational and recreational program.
As a pastor, I’m more concerned about not the attitude towards terrorists – everything is clear with them. In particular, I am concerned about the speed with which a person turns from a victim into an aggressor.
I remember one very interesting case, which was told to me by the military prosecutor, who asked me to give communion to his father. I was still serving as a priest in Minsk then. So, one soldier raped a young girl with particular cruelty. And when his crimes were read out in the courtroom, the girl’s mother screamed in horror. At that moment, a shot rang out – the accused fell dead. The sentry, who also heard all this, could not stand it and shot at this scoundrel.
When this sentry was already judged, they considered that these were emotions, a state of passion. And he was condemned somehow very gently. But less than a year later, the prosecutor met with this guy, convicted for the second murder. He did it consciously. It would seem that he is looking for truth and justice and is ready to destroy untruth and injustice in any way, and on the other hand, he himself falls ill with this madness and begins to do evil even more than it was.
Violence breeds violence.
If you are a terrorist, then you are not Orthodox. Can you be an Orthodox killer? You can be a murderer, but in that case you are not Orthodox. After all, by our sin we remove ourselves from the composition of the Church.
In general, freedom is the basis of the Christian life. Christianity is a religion of happiness that gives freedom. Man becomes happy when he is free. He is not afraid of anyone or anything. As the apostle Paul says: what can separate me from the love of God? Death? Persecution? Poverty? Hunger and cold? Yes, nothing can do that! As for death, this is only a reason for joy, this is an event that promises an early meeting with the beloved Christ.
Source: About sincerity, freedom and prayer (From interviews with Pravmir in different years)