Fr Mikhail Prokopenko, head of the press service of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, advises believers not to overdo Maslenitsa merrymaking and to use these days as a preparation for the forthcoming Great Lent. “It is important that the clamour that wraps up so many in the course of the festival does not obscure our judgement and upset a sober attitude to all that goes on around us”. He said that “to think that the Church is against happiness is an error; nevertheless, it wishes that our joy is of real use to us”.
“Indeed, a person who gives themselves over completely to carnal amusement is deprived of such useful joy. Sensual pleasure sometimes is turned into bitterness of the heart and soul”, Fr Mikhail noted. He reminded us that Maslenitsa is a time “when we can recollect ourselves before the onset of the difficult labour of the Great Lent”. He also asked us to attend to the coincidence that Maslenitsa, which is a time of preparation for the Great Lent, is also a week dedicated by the Church to the contemplation of the Last and Great Judgement at the End of Days. Fr Mikhail emphasised that “this seemingly contradictory connection indicates that our expectation of the Last Judgement must not be one of paralysing fear or gloomy despondency”. He recalled Christ’s words to his disciples, Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:16-18).
“We await Christ not as an enemy or as an executioner, but as our Redeemer. Our anticipation of the Last Judgement at the End of Days should not be a paranoid expectation of punishment, but it should be a joyful hope in the consummation of all things in the eternal life that we find in Christ. Therefore, we find the connection between the joy of Maslenitsa and the contemplation of the Last Judgement is not strange or contradictory at all”, Fr Mikhail stressed. He did remark on those “whose dwelling on apocalyptic fears forced them to flee from their responsibilities to family and society, who fled form normal life”. He stated, “The organisation of Church life is such that a Christian should not fall into such despondency”.
3 March 2008
Russian Railways is offering several kinds of pancakes to its passengers in the dining cars of its long-distance trains during Maslenitsa. Now, it is possible to order blini (Russian pancakes) topped with jam, tvorog (a type of cottage cheese), honey, caviar, mashed potato, or cooked apples as part of the bill of fare in all dining cars. In addition, from 10 March, and continuing throughout the entire Great Lent until Easter, there shall be a special Lenten menu offered in all dining cars and sleeping-car canteens in addition to the usual fare. This offering excludes all food using animal products (meat, milk, fish, and eggs) in accordance with the traditional Orthodox rules for the Lenten fast. Instead of the usual meat or fish dishes, passengers can order Lenten soup, boiled potatoes with onions and mushrooms, or sauerkraut with mushrooms. There is a varied selection of Lenten vegetarian dishes on the menu, including tomatoes, cucumbers, sauerkraut, cabbage, bell peppers, beetroot with walnuts, prunes, vinaigrette salad, Georgian lobio salad, and many others. For dessert, diners shall be offered a large selection of fresh fruits and juices.
4 March 2008
On Sunday, the special holiday programme “Say it Loud, Maslenitsa!” took place at the Kirov Fun Park in St Petersburg. Fancifully dressed buffoons explained the traditions of the holiday, invited attendees to take part in comic competitions, and handed out prizes to the winners of the contests. The festivities lasted all day, the special events included the greeting of the special Maslenitsa train, dramatic productions, an auction of pancakes, and there was traditional Russian Maslenitsa fun such as “rounds” with the broom and a strongman competition. The Maslenitsa programme at the Fun Park usually draws some 50-70,000 revellers. Since Monday, a special Maslenitsa presentation for children has taken place, and the buffoons explain to the kids the significance of the traditions of the holiday, the special Maslenitsa games, and the special Maslenitsa amusements.
4 March 2008
On Monday, Maslenitsa (“Butter Week”) festivities shall begin in Russia, and jolly people shall have much fun and happiness before the arrival of the Great Lent on 10 March. The custom of the carnival is ancient, dating back to the Roman and Greek bacchanalias and saturnalia. Pre-Christian Pagan Slavs celebrated a holiday at this time to send off winter and to welcome in spring. The ordinary people considered Maslenitsa a merry time, and the common belief was that anyone who refused to join in the fun “would live in bitter misfortune and meet a bad end”. Some of the favourite pastimes of the festival were sledding down ice-hills, eating copious quantities of pancakes topped with yummy garnishes, and lighting bonfires. For Orthodox believers, Maslenitsa is also a time of preparation for the Great Lent. The Church encourages us to think more about God, to ask forgiveness from both our enemies and families for our lapses in the past year, and to refrain from eating meat, although fish, oil, milk, eggs, and cheese are permitted.
There is an extensive holiday programme planned for Moscow, and from 3 to 9 March some 200 events shall take place all over the capital. The main area of the festivities shall be around St Basil Cathedral in Red Square. There shall be a special festival area where there shall be teahouses, blini (pancake) stands, coffeehouses, kiosks for sbiten and medovnik (traditional hot Russian drinks), commercial exhibitions, and a folk art market area. The culmination of the celebration shall be on Forgiveness Sunday, when a procession of people dressed in fanciful costumes shall entertain the crowd. When the parade finishes, there shall be a large gala concert of both Russian folk musicians and contemporary stage celebrities. The old traditional Russian Maslenitsa festival was revived in Moscow in 2002. This year, the city government expects that some 350,000 people shall attend the final celebration in Red Square.
2 March 2008
Bishop Artemije Radosavljevic of Raska and Prizren (1935- ). Confessor bishop of a region occupied by NATO forces that aid local Albanian separatists. Vladyki Artemije has always stood four-square against the Western occupation. Kosovo je Srbija.
The Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo broke all its connections with the local authorities, the EU mission, and the representatives of countries that recognised the UDI of Kosovo from Serbia. This is according to a statement released by Archbishop Artemije of Prizren, the Serbian religious leader of Kosovo and Metohija.
4 March 2008
Voice of Russia World Service