Epistle on the 800th Anniversary of the Birth of St. Alexander Nevsky
I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)
Beloved Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters in Christ!
As Orthodox Christians we seek to do the will of God at all times, and to thank God for His good will towards us sinners. For every thing the Lord sends is for our salvation, although we, in our human weakness, separate these things into “good” and “bad”. For God, all He sends to us is for our good – as it is first and foremost for our salvation.
This August 30/September 12 we have been given the blessing to mark the 800th anniversary since the birth of the great saint of God, Great Prince Alexander Nevsky. St. Alexander sought throughout his life, from his earliest years, to align his life, his rule, and all his actions to the will of God, and to glorify God for all things. In this he is an example for us all! Let us all strive to emulate him to the best of our abilities.
For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I
am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:27)
St. Alexander understood the leadership position which he had been given by God to be a position of service, not that of lordship. Not as an entitlement, but as a ministry. Just as the Lord Himself was incarnate to minister to mankind: for the sake of love for fallen mankind – not for the sake of worldly power. This is in stark contrast to the leading politicians of our time, who seek to promote agendas not for the glory of God or for the good of the population, but for the sake of an ideology separated from these two important Orthodox principals of leadership. Let us pray for our secular leaders not just during the Divine Services as commanded by the Apostle Paul, but also in our private prayers – that they might more resemble St. Alexander in their philosophy of governance.
For those not in positions of leadership St. Alexander is an example as well, and we should strive to imitate him as one who had to live fully engaged in the world, but who was never consumed by the world. In all he did St. Alexander put the Orthodox Faith first and foremost. On the day of this great jubilee let us all resolve to renew our struggle in this regard as well – and to ask the prayers of the great St. Alexander before the throne of the Lord in this struggle.
Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For
whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s,
the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own
soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:34-37)
This year the Holy Church marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of our St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. We share here St. John’s impressions of St. Alexander for the edification of our flock:
“Saint Alexander Nevsky spent his entire life in struggles on behalf of the military and the State; he rode on horseback to the Tartar Khan in order to establish peace in Russia, and became renowned for his military victories. But when he fell ill and death came, he accepted it as liberation from the labors of earthly life and gave himself over to that which was dearer than everything to his soul and became a monk, in order to enter the longed-for Kingdom of God, not as an earthly warrior, but as a warrior of Christ.
…The Tartars burned the whole of Russia. Kiev fell, and in the same year Novgorod arose; and that great commander and leader of the Russian people, the Right-believing Prince Alexander Nevsky, roused the Russian people for a struggle, not with the Tartars, who had racked Russia’s body, but with the Catholic Swedes, who, taking advantage of Russia’s misfortune, wanted to seize the soul of the Russian people and kill the spiritual might of the Russian nation and Russia. For Alexander Nevsky it was necessary above all to preserve that spiritual might.”
And thus St. Alexander took to heart the words of the Savior quoted above, that saving our souls is to be preferred above everything else, even if the whole world could otherwise be gained, because if we fail to keep the Faith, nothing else matters.
May this celebration be the beginning of a great veneration of St. Alexander Nevsky in our diocese, in our parishes, and in all our lives! For St. Alexander is a leader by example for those of us living today, just as he was for his people all those centuries ago. May he lead us to that place where he abides eternally – to the Heavenly Kingdom!
With Love in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Peter, Archbishop of Chicago & Mid-America.