Speaking at a liturgy dedicated to the millennium anniversary of the death of Grand Prince St Vladimir the Great, who introduced Christianity to Kievan Rus, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias explained that the most significant takeaway from St Vladimir’s legacy is our need to save contemporary humanity from the contemporary idolatry. Speaking at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow before believers and delegates from over a dozen Local Eastern Orthodox Churches, he noted that St Vladimir decided to abandon paganism and convert to Christianity in line with the prevailing mood among his people.
Vladyki Kirill stated, “[St Vladimir] received baptism from clergy of the Church of Constantinople in Korsun, near present-day Sevastopol. It wasn’t possible for him to make such a profound turn, not only in his own soul, but also for many of his people, as a mere frivolity. His relationship to others, to his people, had changed, and around him, the people themselves began to change. This was probably the only case in our history where the recognition of the prince came from the depths of the peoples’ own lives. Who were the pagan gods of the Kiev pantheon? They were man-made symbols of human passions and human turmoil. The Christian ideal, with time, and not without difficulty, entered the lives of our people. We called ourselves ‘Holy Rus’ because the most sublime, authentic, and unfading ideal of human life was the ideal of holiness”.
“A thousand years after St Vladimir’s death, humanity once again stands at the threshold of a spiritual choice. Contemporary humanity creates idols far more terrible than those like Kievan Perun; we see how crime and war engulf the world, as if human life is worth nothing in our enlightened age. Many people today have consciously rejected the ideal of holiness in favour of the worship the ideals of self-gratification, consumerism, and selfishness. Others are cast adrift and accept whatever falls on them from the colossal information flow, no longer able to distinguish between good and evil. If we don’t let our history and our culture, which emerged from this ideal, and which absorbed this ideal, turn back to those same idols, then, we’d have hope for the future… for the building of a peaceful, fair, equitable life, centred around the immortal ideal of holiness, of human goodness, reason, generosity, love and hope. Bowing down before the memory of Grand Prince St Vladimir, we ask him to be with us, to enlighten our people, to help our youth realise the feats of all those who created Holy Rus, and to help those who are ready to strive for this Rus in our time to struggle first with the sin which is inside all of us”.
Celebrations Across Russia and the Orthodox World
Russia is celebrating the Millennium Anniversary of the death of Grand Prince St Vladimir on a national scale, and the Orthodox world is celebrating too. In Russia the day serves as a double celebration, the festivities also marked the Christianisation of Russia. The high-point of the two-day observance will take place Tuesday in Moscow, when together with foreign Orthodox hierarchs, the MP will commemorate the life and works of Grand Prince St Vladimir. The Kremlin is also set to hold a gala reception for Church representatives hosted by President V V Putin. For its part, the UPTs/MP, which remains the Ukraine’s largest religious body, is holding a liturgy to honour Grand Prince St Vladimir at the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, headed by Metropolitan Onufry Berezovsky of Kiev and all the Ukraine. Unfortunately, Ukrainian officials decided not to attend the event. For his part, junta strongman P A Poroshenko and his wife attended a separate celebration at St Vladimir Cathedral, under the schismatic so-called “Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UPTs/KP)”, a renegade body unrecognised by the world Orthodoxy. Following the Maidan coup d’état last year, relations between the canonical UPTs/MP and the “Kievan” schismatics deteriorated badly, with the UPTs/MP outraged over “Patriarch” F A Denisenko’s comments demanding that the USA and Europe provide assistance to the Kiev junta for its aggression against the DNR and the LNR.
Celebrating Over a Thousand Years of Christendom
The Christianisation of Kievan Rus began in 988, associated with Grand Prince St Vladimir, who has since been given the title “Great” by the state, sainthood by the Church, and the epithet “Red Sun” by the people. Vladimir ruled Kievan Rus from 980 to 1015; he abandoned paganism and accepted Christianity eight years into his rule. According to the Primary Chronicle, emissaries from differing faiths travelled to visit St Vladimir beginning in 986, each attempting to convince the ruler to accept their own faith. St Vladimir also sent out his own envoys to visit the nine nations from which the emissaries had come, asking them to describe the religious customs and rituals of these country. St Vladimir’s marriage to Princess Anna, daughter of Roman Emperor Romanos II and Empress Theophano in 988, resulted first in his baptism, then, in the mass baptism of the people of Kiev, rich and poor alike, afterwards. After Kiev, other cities of Kievan Rus gradually Christianised, with the Christianisation of what eventually became contemporary Russia continuing into the 12th century. Many historians believe that adopting a new unifying faith was a serious spur to unifying the Russian lands. The Christianisation of Rus allowed Russia to find its civilisational identity, and its place between Europe and Asia.
28 July 2015