Father Aleksandr Men, martyred by KGB


#1

Father Aleksandr Men was during 70 and 80 years the brave leader of believers in Soviet Union. His disciples included Aleksandr Solzenitsyn, Natalia Trauerberg (catholic translator of GK Chesterton into Russian). He was beaten to death on his way to his church by KGB-tsi 14 years ago. His sermons collected as About Christ and Church and Christianity read in by very many people in countries of CNG. If forum writers have read any of his works, or know of his influence on atheists please write.


#2

A great loss for us

This site has a large selection of his writings from which his last talk:

"Christianity"
by Fr Alexander Men (September 8, 1990)

In Christianity the world is sanctified, while evil, sin and death are conquered. But the victory is God’s. It began on Resurrection morning, and will continue as long as the world remains.”–Fr Alexander Men

home.earthlink.net/~amenpage/christianity.htm

http://home.earthlink.net/~amenpage/2000icon-sm2.jpg

Christ’s High-Priestly Prayer of John 17

home.earthlink.net/~amenpage/99conf1.htm


#3

Alexander Men (1935-1990) is among the most beloved–and hated–Orthodox figures of the former Soviet Union.

Born a Jew, he was baptized as an infant by his mother, who had become a member of the catacomb (or underground) church in Russia under Soviet suppression. Young Alik showed a keen interest in the faith: his favorite saint was Seraphim of Sarov and by the age of 15 he was well-read in Augustine, Chrysostom, and the Cappadocian Fathers. Entering college to study biology, he began serving in the Church and was barred from graduating. Thus, the way was open for him to become a priest. Fr Alexander received formal training in the Leningrad and Moscow Theological Academies. He served as a priest for thirty years, the last twenty in a small wooden church in Novaya Derevnya, a village near Moscow. On Sunday morning, September 9, 1990, while walking to catch the train to Novaya Derevnya to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, he was murdered by an ax-blow to the back of his skull.

Fr Alexander’s church had grown to number in the thousands, consisting of an odd mix of elderly women, students, and members of the intelligentsia. He was influential in bringing both Jews and intellectuals into Orthodoxy, and is said to have convinced Alexander Solzhenitsyn to rejoin the Church. One reviewer styled Fr Alexander “a one man antidote to decades of Marxist propaganda.” By the 1980s the KGB increased their watch on Fr Alexander, and the latter was forced to meet with parishioners in their homes, where he answered questions about the faith by giving impromptu talks. He stressed a fearless faith in Christ open to dialogue with the world. This commitment provoked anti-semites, KGB agents, atheists and even some churchmen to despise him.

After Glasnost, Fr Alexander was able to emerge onto the public scene–but only briefly. He addressed packed audiences at lecture halls and he gave talks over the radio and on television. His genius served to found an Orthodox University in Moscow. Fr Alexander also helped establish a charity group for children with life-threatening diseases. Motivated by love, he was critical of certain aspects of the Russian Church. He also believed that grace and truth could be found in all Christian traditions; on the divisions in Christendom he is said to have remarked: “The walls we erect between ourselves are not high enough to reach up to God”. Fr Alexander produced a copious literary output, much of which was published pseudonymously abroad. His murder has not been solved. Many in Russia and abroad consider him a martyr, and the spirit of Fr Alexander Men lives on in their hearts.


#4

On Encounter with Christ

"The word ‘Meeting’, or ‘Encounter’ … is the most important word of our inner life, because the most important moment for all of us is our Encounter with the Lord, our own personal Encounter with Him. We have all come to Him and to the Church precisely because this Encounter has taken place. I am convinced that God knocks at the door of each of us, while often remaining anonymous. But man can reject Him, can turn his back on Him, can wish that the Encounter would not happen. And for us, who have responded to this Encounter, however weak our voice, most precious is the fact that along our own path we have met You, Oh Lord. …] We can testify that this has infinitely deepened our life, expanded our horizons, opened inexhaustible levels, given us strength for the struggle despite the difficulties on our path.
"Nevertheless, our journey upwards has begun. For you fairly young people the upward path is not always clear, because you are as yet ascending in life’s basic aspects, physically. But when a person reaches a critical point in life, he begins to descend physically. And when you experience this, you will know how precious the fact that the Gospel, the power of God’s Spirit, the Encounter with Christ, gives us the possibility of always ascending to such an extent – that however we crawl, whatever zig-zags we make, however we may trip up, however we fall back – still, we are growing. The natural, unspiritual man always perceives only more and more loss, while we are always gaining. If I were offered the chance to return to my twenties I would be horrified because, recalling this time of my life, I would feel impoverished, robbed in relation to all that I have acquired since those days. To part with such treasure would indeed be hard. That’s why for us this Encounter is always a stimulus, a movement, an invitation to ascend. …]
"If you want to find something real in Christianity, then search for it only through the Risen Christ. Secondly, the Resurrection means victory. It means that God entered our human struggle, the great struggle of spirit against darkness, evil, oppression. He who was rejected, condemned, killed, humiliated, somehow focused all the misfortunes of the world in himself and triumphed over all of them.
“In weakness, in crucifixion God revealed his power, and he reveals it still. I need to remind you that the Apostle Paul said: all of us need to experience the Resurrection, this special Encounter with God, in this life; but this is inseparable from crucifixion. He says (as in the epistle read at baptisms) that we are crucified with Christ, that with him we share sufferings common to us all, inner torments, external sorrows – each one has his own difficulties which he carries in life – if we understand them as participation in the sufferings of Christ, who suffers for the whole world, whose heart bleeds, because that heart contains all the hearts of the world. To die with him in order to rise with him. …] To talk about it is rather hard, more precisely, almost impossible. But each of us who finds himself in a critical situation, an illness, a tough condition, should remember that this condition can be sanctified; we can transform it into a cross. We always need to remember that next to Christ were two thieves, one simply suffered, while the other co-suffered with Christ and heard the words, ‘Today, you will be with me in paradise.’”


#5

On True Christianity

"Often what passes for Orthodoxy or another Christian confession is simply natural religiosity which, in its own right, is a kind of opium for the people. It functions as a sort of spiritual anesthetic, it helps a person adjust to his surrounding world, over which one can hang the slogan: ‘Blessed is the one who believes that it is cozy in the world.’ Most people who find that it is cold in this world are drawn to this warmth and imagine Christianity as a kind of – well, if not a bath, then at least some sort of tepid place like a mud-bath where one can warm up.
“This is all wrong! Even if I were a Moslem and came to you, having read your Christian books I would have to say to you: ‘Folks, it’s not this way. Your religion does not consist in this at all. Your God is a consuming fire and not a warm hearth, and he is calling you to a place where all sorts of cold winds are blowing, so that what you imagine does not exist. You adapted and developed a completely different teaching to suit your own human needs. You transformed Christianity into a mediocre, popular religion.’ …] That is to say that Christianity can be authentic and it can be false. The false form is always more convenient. It always suits us better, which is why contemporary religious life is often characterized by a churchly falsehood when people prefer that which is convenient, calm and pleasant, conforms to their own ideas, consoles them, and which they enjoy. It is not at all to this that the Lord called us when he said ‘the gate is narrow’ and ‘the way is narrow.’ And again and again we need to understand that this Spirit is not a warmth but a fire. It is a fire. …] We have to discover true Christianity within ourselves.”


#6

Father Alexander Men and Religious Freedom in Russia

[size=5]One of the recurring struggles in post-Communist Russia is the heated debate over the rights of religious minorities and the appropriate relationship between church and state. Recently, several efforts have been made to revise the 1990 Freedom of Conscience law, which granted religious freedom to Russian citizens after seventy years of government-sponsored atheism and gave all religions equal legal standing. The new draft laws are designed to restrict religious freedom and to re-establish state control over religious organizations. These initiatives are the result of the combined efforts of leaders from the Communist Party, various nationalist groups and the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church.[/size]

In sharp contrast to these current efforts to restrict religious freedom and give the established Orthodox Church a privileged position in Russian society, Father Alexander Men, whose legacy and insights were described in the last two issues of “Reflections,” offered another perspective. During his ministry as a parish priest and later as a public lecturer, Father Men argued emphatically for religious pluralism and a secular state that “serves the interests of its citizens regardless of their religious affiliation”

An Open Model of Christianity

In the last interview Father Men gave, four days before his murder in September 1990, he was asked about the changes that had taken place in Russia regarding religious freedom and the current status of the Russian Orthodox Church. Father Men expressed concern about the “conservative tendency” among Orthodox leaders and how they were anti-Western and hostile to reform. He noted how fascist forces were linking up with Russian clericalists and nostalgic church people. In his judgment, “that’s why the most conservative and right-wing elements have been preserved, have survived and multiplied. They found favour with the [government] functionaries and with the KGB” …]

The Need for Repentance

After the fall of Communism, Father Men often preached about the need for repentance in order for true healing to take place in Russia. He expressed concern over the newly-emerging Russian nationalism, which he described as a form of cultural narcissism. He viewed this narcissism as “harmful and dangerous,” stating that it made Russian society idealize itself while it searched for a cultural identity to replace the one provided by Communist ideology. As an example of this phenomena, Father Men referred to the celebration of the millennium of Christianity in Russia, which occurred in 1988. “There was not a single word of repentance, not a single word about the tragedy of the Russian Church, only triumphialism and self-congratulation”

By Dr John A. Bernbaum, September 1997

home.earthlink.net/~amenpage/bernbaum3.htm


#7

[quote=Myhrr]A great loss for us

This site has a large selection of his writings from which his last talk:

"Christianity"
by Fr Alexander Men (September 8, 1990)

In Christianity the world is sanctified, while evil, sin and death are conquered. But the victory is God’s. It began on Resurrection morning, and will continue as long as the world remains.”–Fr Alexander Men

home.earthlink.net/~amenpage/christianity.htm

http://home.earthlink.net/~amenpage/2000icon-sm2.jpg

Christ’s High-Priestly Prayer of John 17

home.earthlink.net/~amenpage/99conf1.htm
[/quote]

So glad to see your icon names Father Men as Saint. Father Yakov Krotov has written about “canonization” of Father Men. Official canonization will probably happen by Russian Orthodox church. However “canonization” is not, as Father Yakov notes, method to be honored as Saint for most Saints but rather “proslavlenie”. This is the recognition by Church pastors and parish members of the holiness of life of the person apparent to the entire world. Christians witness to the person’s sanctity - svidetelstvovanie - even before official canonization. Mother Teresa Calcutta’s and Father Men’s glorification is witnessed to by Christian faithful even before canonization.


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