20 January 2009

The power of the Word

It was Pascha of the first year after the Communist October Revolution. In front of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Lunaciarski was holding an atheist conference. This founder of the "bezbojnik" (without God) movement had declared openly a couple of months earlier that God should disappear completely from the vast Soviet territories. He had made a solemn commitment in the presence of the Soviet Communist party. On that day the meeting was of great size. Country people and workmen from surrounding areas and from far away had been brought forcibly to attend...There were thousands of Bolsheviks applauding and thundering slogans against God. The orator was in his glory.
To make the argument more powerful, an inflamed group of Communists surprised an old priest on the street; they beat him, spat upon him, pulled his beard and brought him on the stage. Lunaciarski looked at him and said, "Do you see these multitudes? from now on, they do not believe in God; they believe in me, in what I tell them. Look, I give you the floor. If in five minutes, you do not convince them that God exists, I will execute you." The priest turned to the people, and, this being Pascha, he felt in his heart a flow of warm love and compassion for these people. He cleared his voice and cried out with a supernatural force, "BRETHREN, CHRIST IS RISEN!" There were a few seconds of dead silence, and then as if from the depths or even from heaven, the answer of tens of thousands of Bolsheviks reverberated through the air: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!" The old man made the sign of the cross in the presence of the speaker and said, "Your Excellency, my demonstration is finished." Then he slipped away through the crowd and disappeared. The writer Nicholas Arseniev, who was an eyewitness, later related the facts of this event in his memoirs when he was in exile.

---from "On the Way of Faith", by Archimandrite Roman Braga


Donna said...

I love this account. Someone related a bare-bones version of it to me while I was an inquirer... Gives me chills. Glory to God! :) Thanks for posting the detailed account and its source (or at least, the place I could go to read it if I wanted to) :) --Donna in Scranton

Rosko said...

Like Donna in Scranton, I have read this before, but I'm glad I now have a place where I can refer to it in detail. I really like your blog for these things, and everything else you post on it.


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Thanks, both of you, for your comments. I'm long overdue for a visit to Fr. Roman at Rives Junction...