From a biography of a holy priest who was imprisoned in the Soviet labor camps from 1939 – 1958 Father Arseny 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father a narrative from servant of God Alexander concerning his spiritual father. Translated by Vera Bouteneff
In the evenings, after the work was done, even though the prisoners were exhausted beyond belief, they would sit in groups and play games or converse, sometimes breaking in to ideological, philosophical or theological arguments.
One night, a group began to bicker about the origins of the current communist misery. Most of them blamed the government for all of their pain and misfortune. When they started on the subject of the destruction of churches and suppression of the faith, they dragged Fr. Arseny into their midst, insisting that he opine.
This is what he said:
“…you say that the communists have arrested the believers, closed churches, trampled on faith. Yes, it does look that way, on the surface, but let us look into this more deeply, let us glance at the past. Among us Russian people many have lost the faith, lost respect for our past, we lost much of what was precious and good. Who is at fault? The authorities? No, we are at fault ourselves, we are only reaping what we ourselves have sown.
Let us remember the bad examples set by the intelligentsia, the nobility, the merchants, and the civil servants. We in the priesthood were the worst of them all.
Children of priests became atheists and revolutionaries, simply because they had seen in their families lies and a lack of true faith. Long before the revolution, priests had already lost the real right to be the shepherds of their people, of their conscience. Priesthood became a profession. Many priests were atheists and alcoholics.pg. 56
He listed the names of the few monasteries that were “real beacons of Christianity:, the others “became communities with no faith in them”. He went on to say:
“We did not raise our people right, we did not give them the basics of strong faith. remember this! Remember! This is why the people were so quick to forget all of us, their own priests; they mainly forgot their faith and participated in the destruction of churches, sometimes even leading the way in their destruction.
Understanding all of this, I cannot point a finger at our authorities, because the seeds of faithlessness fell on the soil which we ourselves had prepared. And from there comes the rest: our camp, our sufferings, the wrongful deaths of innocent people.”pg. 57
This is message is for us, in the continuing story of infidelity and failure of God’s people to follow His law. It began with the chosen people, the Israelites in the desert, God having warned them of the consequences of falling away from the straight and narrow path: the leaders would be the first to falter, getting carried away with sins of the flesh and power and wealth and then the people would follow, becoming abominable in His eyes. He even predicted its coming, telling Moses,
“…when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant.”Deuteronomy 31:20
There would always be a faithful few, however, who were steadfast and true. Even these, nevertheless, would suffer the consequences of their leaders’ folly.
“Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD.
Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.”Jeremiah 23:2-3
We are facing a repeat of this right now. Our leaders, for the most part, have become weak and wimpy in the faith, concerned with the opinions and pressures of the anti-theist world about them instead of the everlasting knowledge, understanding and wisdom of the Holy Trinity in the deposit of Faith.
God help us remain faithful to His Truth and call on the Holy Spirit for strength to speak it and act on it with Love.