Икона Святого Равноапостольного князя Владимира

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Letter from a Soviet prison camp

It is only by being a prisoner for religious conviction in a Soviet camp that one can really understand the fall of the first man, the mystical meaning of the redemption of all creation, and the great victory of Christ over the forces of evil. It is only when we suffer for the ideals of the Holy Gospel that we realize our sinful infirmity and our unworthiness in comparison with the great martyrs of the first Christian Church. Only then can we grasp the absolute necessity for profound meekness and humility, without which we cannot be saved; only then can we begin to discern the passing imagine of the seen, and the eternal life of the Unseen.

On the day of Pascha all of us who were imprisoned for religious convictions were united in the one joy of Christ. We were all taken into one feeling, into one spiritual triumph, glorifying the one eternal God. There was no solemn Paschal service with the ringing of church bells, no possibility to gather in our camp to worship, to dress up for the festival, to prepare festive dishes. On the contrary, there was even more work and more interference than usual. All the prisoners here for religious convictions, whatever their denomination, were surrounded by more spying, by more threats from the secret police.

Yet Pascha was there: great, holy, spiritual, unforgettable. It was blessed by the presence of our risen God among us — blessed by the silent Siberian stars and by our sorrows. How our hearts beat joyfully in communion with the great Resurrection! Death is conquered; fear no more, an eternal Pascha is given to us! Full of this marvellous Pascha, we send to you from our prison camp the victorious and joyful tidings: Christ is risen!