Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Desecration of Russian and Serbian gravestones in Sydney


More than 70 Orthodox gravestones and Crosses were recently overturned or otherwise vandalised at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney. Officials state that neither racial or cultural aggression was implied in this sad event. However, Orthodox Christians should understand that such vandalism is clearly inspired by the evil one, who especially hates the Orthodox.

A natural reaction might be sadness and anger. Nevertheless, let us not give in to such feelings, and not let them detract our attention from firm faith and hope in God!

The dead are no longer harmed by events in this world. Their souls have departed for the eternal mansions, and only their bodies rest in the graves. No amount of violence to their remains or resting places, although sad and disrespectful, can harm their souls. Instead, the violators are harming their own souls by their evil deeds…

One famous example is St Sava of Serbia. His relics were burned (!) by the Turks, but in front of God, he was and remains a glorious saint! The Orthodox people’s faith was not touched by the event, indeed, their veneration of the saint became even more fervent.

The persecutors of Christians often did not release the bodies of the martyrs to the faithful, knowing how much relics strengthened the people’s faith. But God allowed the faithful to recover the bodies, and the Church to grow, watered by the blood of the martyrs.

Many saints actually had very little regard for their bodies. They commanded their disciples to leave their physical remains unburied, or even to allow wild animals to eat them up. These saints considered that their earthly vessel, the body, had some human weaknesses, or maybe committed some small sins, and therefore was not worthy of burial.
Instead, God Himself glorified His own people. God did not allow these saints’ will to be fulfilled! Animals would not touch the dead bodies, and the disciples would have a very uneasy conscience in obeying… We read in the Lives of Saints that the disciples subsequently buried their fathers with great honour and reverence.

Only in very special circumstances can God work healing for the souls of those who disrespect his servants’ earthly remains. Such a miraculous event is recounted in the life of St Philaret the Merciful:

One of the mourners, who was troubled by a demon from birth, was often going to visit the saint, while the latter was among the living, and receiving alms from the holy Philaret. The demonised man was following the relics of his kind benefactor and kept shouting. Then, in a disorderly fashion, he began clutching at the bier to overturn it. When the mourners reached the grave, the demon cast the man to the ground and agitated him; after shaking the sufferer, the demon departed. The man had been made well through the intercessions of Saint Philaret.
Synaxarion, 1 December

What can make a difference to our departed ones’ souls, is prayer in Church and at home, almsgiving and good deeds. An Orthodox Christian should concentrate his love for his departed relatives and friends on good deeds for the benefit of the soul.



Metropolitan Agafangel
First Hierarch of the Russian
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Bishop John of Melbourne
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