Appeal Head of the Orthodox Church of Kazakhstan metropolitan of Astana and Kazakhstan Alexander on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the martyrdom of the presbyters Nikolo-Kuchugursky Stefan, Alexander and Philip
- 17.01.2023, 11:45
- Новости на английском языке
All-honorable fathers, brothers and sisters!
In the days of celebrating the appearance of Christ the Life-Giver into the world, the Orthodox Church of Kazakhstan prayerfully celebrates the 90th anniversary of the martyrdom of the shepherds who labored in the time of fiery ordeal (1 Peter 4:12) in the Nikolsky Cathedral in Alma-Ata - Archpriests Alexander Skalsky, Stefan Ponomarev and Philip Grigoriev. To them we can fully attribute the commendable words of St. Ephraim the Syrian: “Blessed are these ascetics of Christ, partakers of light and eternal life, pillars of the faith, sons of the honest Church, strongholds of the walls of Heavenly Zion.”
Before the Lord called his faithful shepherds - Archpriests Alexander, Stephen and Philip - to testify of the gospel truth in the face of tormentors, they toiled without laziness in the field of Christ, zealously served the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9) were according to the word of the apostles, an example for the faithful in word, in life, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Tim. 4:12).
In the 1920s and 1930s, they had to face not only persecution and harassment for their faith, but also a special test that befell the Church at that time - a renovationist schism, cunningly initiated and supported by the enemies of holy Orthodoxy. About the leaders of the Renovationist schism, one of the famous hierarchs of the early twentieth century, and later a holy martyr, Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky) wrote: “They separated themselves from the unity of the body of the Ecumenical Church and were deprived of the grace of God, which dwells only in the Church of Christ.” St. John Chrysostom has a formidable warning: "The sin of schism is not washed away even by martyr's blood." On the land of Kazakhstan in those years, with the support of the atheists, the Renovationists managed to seize many churches, but Alma-Ata the only stronghold of the true Church remained St. Nicholas Cathedral, where Archpriests Alexander, Stefan and Philip carried their obediences, protecting the flock from false teachers which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15).
The church of St. Nicholas was at that time the place of residence of the nuns of the devastated Iversko-Serafimovsky monastery; priests expelled from their parishes served here, and archpastors, shepherds and laity exiled to Kazakhstan lived here. The honest presbyters, whose memory we are now celebrating, showed persecuted, destitute, tormented by suffering people “work produced by faith and labor prompted by love” (1 Thess. 1:3), sparing no effort and not fearing the wrath of godless authorities. Day by day their spiritual authority increased among the people, so that even the residents of Alma-Ata, who had gone into the Renovationist schism or lost their faith in God, returned to the saving fence of the Church of Christ. The vigorous activity and fearlessness of archpriests Stephen, Alexander and Philip did not give rest to the godless authorities. On December 10, 1932, the pastors, together with Bishop German (Weinberg) of Alma-Ata, and the clergy of St. Nicholas Church, immediately after the end of the evening service, were arrested on fictitious charges of creating a counter-revolutionary organization.
The Apostle Paul encouraged the first Christians: conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you, for the sake of Christ it is given to you not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him (see 1 Phil. 1:27-28). The hour has come for the Nikolo-Kuchugur presbyters to take part in the sufferings of Christ, to be crucified with the Lord and together with Him to be glorified in the eternal Divine Kingdom. At the beginning of 1933, on holy days, illuminated by the light of the Savior’s appearance into the world, they ascended from earth to Heaven and received crowns of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8): Archpriest Philip on January 17, Archpriest Stefan on January 18, and Archpriest Alexander on January 20 January. Following the apostle, they could repeat the wonderful words: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” ( Romans 8:35-37)".
The memory of the honest presbyters who died as martyrs in prison dungeons has been reverently kept for decades by the believing people, despite the fact that officially their names were banned. Among the Orthodox Kazakhstanis there are many who remember the stories of their older relatives about that difficult era and those who, through the prayers of the Hieromartyrs Nikolo-Kuchugursky, received special favors from the Lord.
"God is with us!" (Isaiah 8:10; Matt. 1:23) – the words of an ancient prophecy that came true in the mystery of the Nativity of Christ are now heard in churches. The Orthodox Church has been living with this joyful news for more than two millennia.
This confidence inspired those who laid its unshakable foundation, the holy apostles, to preach. The ancient martyrs shed blood for Christ with her. With this faith, the saints and pastors worked selflessly, enlightening and establishing countries and peoples in the Orthodox faith. "God is with us!" – this truth imparted firmness of spirit to Archpriests Stephen, Alexander and Philip, and to the countless host of New Martyrs and Confessors of the 20th century, who ascended Golgotha during the years of the most severe persecution of Orthodoxy.
Sufferers for Christ are the pillar of today, for what we believe and know that the martyrs who held fast to the Lord your God are still alive today
(Deut. 4:4). They were put to death, but remained invincible, they suffered humiliation, but gained eternal glory, they were buried in obscurity, but they triumph in Heaven, standing before the Throne of God and interceding for you and me, who call them in prayer.
“Remember your leaders” (Heb 13:7), the Holy Scripture teaches us. Following the pious tradition, in memory of the ascetic service and martyrdom of the heavenly patrons of Alma-Ata and all of Kazakhstan - Archpriests Stefan, Alexander and Philip - a stone worship Cross was erected near the walls of St. Nicholas Cathedral, the consecration of which we perform on this special day for all of us.
May Christ the Savior, born of the Most Holy Theotokos, through the prayers of the Hieromartyrs Presbyters Nikolo-Kuchugursky Stephen, Alexander and Philip, grant us all His great and rich mercy and bless the land of Kazakhstan and all countries and peoples with peace.
HEAD OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF KAZAKHSTAN
METROPOLITAN OF ASTANAI AND KAZAKHSTAN
Alma-Ata. January 17, 2023