Voices from Russia

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Magical Mountain

17-Alfons Maria Mucha. Mount Athos, The Holy Mountain. The Orthodox Vatican (from the Slavonic Epic, nr 17). 1926

Mount Athos, The Holy Mountain: The Orthodox Vatican

Alfons Maria Mucha


from The Slavonic Epic, nr 17


Mount Athos is truly a magical mountain, not in the Thomas Mann sense of the term, but rather as a blessed holy place that speaks volumes to Greeks. I don’t believe that I’ve ever felt the way I did in the early morning hours, listening to hymns, watching the elderly monks on the benches, observing the younger monks artfully and patiently lighting candles in the chandeliers, in an incense-scented scene of absolute and disciplined beauty. Leaving aside the natural beauty and the few unique interlocutors who leave an indelible mark on visitors, the Mountain is a source of inspiration offering an opportunity for recollection.

Mount Athos is various worlds in one. One part, rightly or wrongly, is identified with all the backward elements of modern Greek thinking, ranging from conspiracy theories to the most primitive perceptions of the modern world. However, whilst backward-looking people look and listen to all that matches their bias and theories, those in search of their own balance vis-à-vis a complicated world will find solace in the landscape, the early dawn services, and the discussions. Athos also demonstrates the art of survival. The Church is the oldest political organisation in the country and Mount Athos is living proof of how it’s managed to overcome historical adversity and catastrophes, as well as more ephemeral situations, such as government and régime changes. A friend visited one of the barest, most primitive, monasteries and saw a photograph of dictator Ioannis Metaxas there. He asked the abbot, “How come you still have a portrait of Metaxas hanging on the wall?” The monk replied, “He was a benefactor to our monastery. Sometimes, we take longer to hang portraits of rulers, but, more importantly, we take even longer to bring them down”.

Stories of survival and the tactics of those in charge are passed on by word of mouth, from one generation of monks to the next as they continue to support and maintain their traditions. I remember an elderly monk explaining that his monastery had been able to expand thanks to the good-will of the Byzantine (sic) emperor’s high-ranking secretary, “What today’s young politicians fail to understand is that they’ll disappear in a few years, but the monastery will still be here long after they’ve gone”. The self-assurance rendered by tradition and survival in the face of adversity is invincible and, clearly, Mount Athos teaches this unique art. Athos is a unique heritage that we must protect and safeguard for centuries to come. In the meantime, its current representatives are walking a tightrope as they are called on to distinguish between what’s necessary for survival from business and traditions of obscurantism.

17 August 2014

Alexis Papachelas



Tuesday, 8 April 2014

8 April 2014. Blessed Matrona and Stalin: Did It Happen and Is This an Icon?

00 Matrona and Stalin. Ilya Pivnik. 2008

Blessed Matrona of Moscow and I V Stalin

Ilya Pivnik



Before we do anything else, let’s delve into the question, “Is this an icon, and is it’s painter a Church person?” Let’s take the latter first… Ilya Pivnik is a well-known icon painter in St Petersburg; particularly, his excellent depictions of New Martyrs are in many churches. Therefore, Pivnik isn’t some unreliable dabbler in iconography. He spent some months on Mount Athos, where he painted icons for several chapels.


00 St Ioann Kronshtadtsky. Ilya Pivnik. 2000

St Ioann Kronshtadtsky

Ilya Pivnik


Podvorie of the Leushino Convent of St John the Baptist (St Petersburg RF)


Is Pivnik’s painting an icon? Certainly, it follows the canons of Russian icon painting. Note well that I V Stalin doesn’t have a nimbus. In researching this, about 95 percent of the images “out there” lack such, the few that have such seem to be PhotoShops. Indeed, it’s clear from the icon that Stalin isn’t a holy figure; he’s simply a figure in the action. If one was to simply gauge from this icon, it’s apparent that the only “holy figure” in the icon is Blessed Matrona. Note well that she doesn’t bless Stalin or curse him. She’s simply in her room and Stalin is walking away, not even talking to her. The only takeaway from this is that Stalin and Blessed Matrona maybe talked, and that Stalin’s leaving.


01 Joseph Stalin Soviet Poster


Is this controversial? You bet your ass! It’s radioactive. There’s so much “Sturm und Drang” that I’d say that it’s impossible to get at the truth of the matter. Click here for a discussion on the controversy surrounding this icon. Did Stalin meet Matrona? She was a well-known figure in the city and Stalin’s views on religion (particularly, in later life) were ambiguous and (sometimes) contradictory. The Church fared relatively well after 1941… it was Khrushchyov who shut down parishes by the gross (when the persecution ended, 60 percent were gone).


01 St Serafim Vyritsky

St Serafim Vyritsky


What’s alleged to have happened? Supposedly, Stalin went to Blessed Matrona to receive her blessing for his defence of Moscow. Some say that she blessed him and prayed for the victory of the Red Army. This isn’t new in Russian history… St Sergei of Radonezh blessed Grand Prince St Dmitri Donskoi and St Serafim Vyritsky prayed for the victory of the Red Army in the VOV. However, there’s been so much kerfuffle that we’ll never really KNOW if it happened. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

As for me, I BELIEVE. I won’t have an argument… I BELIEVE.


00 Svoboda nazis. 22.03.14


Mark this down well… we have a terrible crisis facing Holy Rus, one as serious as the Fascist invasion. America threatens Holy Rus using Galician/Ukie Nationalist clients. The Vatican backs America (at least, segments of it do). They want to rape Russia and pick it as cleanly as they’ve stripped the Ukraine. I believe that Red and White must unite to fight the foe. This means that we mustn’t support those in the USA who hate our motherland and want to destroy her. That’s why good Orthodox Christians can’t have anything to do with Uniates or Republicans or Langley or the US State Department or any part of the American foreign policy apparat… all are the sworn enemies of Holy Rus.


00 Free Market Trickle Down Economics at Work. 15.05.13


It’s time to stand behind Holy Rus and the Assembly of All the Saints Who Shone Forth in the Russian Land. It’s time to make Potapov and Paffhausen repudiate their past whoring for Langley and the K Street slimeocracy in public. At least, we shouldn’t stand with those who hate our ethos… and the Republican Party, with its repulsive “Rugged Individualism” stands against everything held by the Holy Church.

It’s time to stand up… God wills it…


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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Patriarch Kirill’s Word Before Nativity Matins at Christ the Saviour Cathedral on the Gifts of the Magi Displayed in the Church

00 Patriarch Kirill at Moscow Prison. 07.01.14

This year, HH brought gifts to the prisoners at Remand Prison nr 5 in Moscow… he puts his money where his mouth is… unlike some American Orthodox loudmouths I could mention (but won’t)…


At this liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and in all the parishes of our Church, but not only our in our Local Church, Orthodox people celebrate Nativity evening services. Through this contact with the memory of the greatest event in human history, we touch upon what is, in fact, this event’s essential reality. God wanted to come into the world to unite Himself with mankind, to become one of us, not with force, not with money, not with human power, not with coercive predestination, but rather through people’s free choice to become partakers of divine life. People responded to this great event in simplicity of heart. The shepherds joyfully testified to the birth of the SaviourThe Magi came with gifts to Him, the newborn, to thank heaven, in gratitude to God for this unknown infant, presenting gold, frankincense, and myrrh… gold, as He was a King, frankincense, as He was God, and myrrh, as He was a man.

Today, prayers before these greatest universal Christian relics will follow our liturgy in the Cathedral. The Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Saviour, carefully preserved these Gifts of the Magi, and gave them to the Jerusalem Church, who kept them until the end of the Fourth Century, when they went to the new capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople. When there was a danger of foreign invasion of Constantinople, the relics went to Mount Athos, where the Monastery of St Paul kept them.

At our request, for the first time in history, these relics are in Russia. Now, we can come to the Gifts of the Magi. They will stand in the centre of the temple, and every one of you throughout this liturgy can pray before this holy shrine of the newborn Saviour, to ask mercy for yourselves, for your loved ones, especially your children, to ask for God’s mercy and His help upon our God-protected country, upon all historical Rus, and upon our Church. We believe that our prayers before these holy relics, overflowing with God’s grace, will fill us with deep faith and hope before the Lord.

Kirill Gundyaev

Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias


At the western doors of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Patriarch, hierarchs, and clergy met the ark with gifts of the Magi. Since the 15th century, these holy relics were at the Monastery of St Paul on Mount Athos. A special charter flight from Thessaloniki brought them to Moscow. Archimandrite Parthenios Murelatos, the Abbot of the Monastery of St Paul, monks of the Monastery brotherhood, as well K V Malofeyev, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the St Basil Charity Foundation, S Yu Rudov, the head of the committee that organised the bringing of the relics to Russia, and Yu V Artyukh, a government official, brought the relics from Vnukovo Airport to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Patriarch Kirill took the ark to its prepared place for veneration as the choir sang the Nativity tropar.


With the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all the Russias, for the first time, the ark with sacred relics from Mount Athos, the Gifts of the Magi, came to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Clergy met the ark at Vnukovo Airport on 6 January 2014. In Moscow, the relic will be at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Access to believers will be from 7 to 13 January, from 08.00 to 22.00. Then, the ark will go to St Petersburg, Kiev, and Minsk.

The Gifts of the Magi is one of the few relics associated with the earthly life of the Saviour preserved to this day. The Gospel according to St Matthew tells how Oriental sages brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Infant Christ Jesus. These Gifts have deep symbolic meaning. They brought gold, as Christ was a King, they brought incense, as He was God, and they brought myrrh, to prepare Him for His future burial. Since the 15th century, the Monastery of St Paul on Mount Athos kept these relics. Abbot Parthenios said, “Every year, thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to the Monastery of St Paul, to venerate these holy relics, the Gifts of the Magi, held at our monastery. Many of these pilgrims are Russians”. Elder Parthenios said that he’s taken the relics to the MP’s canonical territory so that believers can venerate them and receive a blessing. During a pilgrimage to Mount Athos in June 2013, Patriarch Kirill said, “It’s fortunate that there’s a vibrant spiritual relationship between the Holy Mountain and the countries of historical Rus. I’m glad to see ever-increasing numbers of pilgrims visiting this holy place. In the Russia, the Church publishes more books about Mount Athos, there’s growing interest in the history of the Holy Mountain and in the spiritual values held by its monasteries”.

During the stay of the relics at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the clergy will serve Liturgy for the Nativity of Christ before the ark with the Gifts of the Magi.

According to legend, the Mother of God Herself gave the Gifts of the Magi, along with His belt and His robe to the Church of Jerusalem. They were in Jerusalem until the end of the Fourth Century, when Roman Emperor Arcadios (395-408) moved them to the imperial capital of Constantinople New Rome. After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, the relics passed to the Monastery of St Paul in 1470. The Magi’s Gold survives as 28 small fragments of different shapes, artfully decorated with filigree ornamentation. Each of these gold plates has beads on a silver thread attached, sprinkled with a mixture of frankincense and myrrh. The relics are in 10 special arks, one of which is going on tour for believers in Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine.


Schedule of the Itinerary of the Gifts of the Magi on the MP canonical territory:

One can get Media Accreditation for the relics’ stay in Moscow from 7 to 13 January from the MP Synodal Information Department (e-mail press.dary@gmail.com). For accreditation, the application must include the official name of the publication, indicating names and positions of journalists, the list of equipment, as well as the day and time of the wanted media visit to the church. The telephone for Media Relations is +7 926-40-40-621. A press centre will run during the relics’ visit. Only accredited journalists will have access from Volkhonka Street. The MP invites journalists accredited for the Patriarchal Nativity service from 6 to 7 January, as well as those vetted for Vespers on January 7, to take part in the coverage of the relics’ stay on the following days. The Church has opened a special website on the relics.

6 January 2014


MP official website


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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Bulgarian Orthodox Church Celebrates Centennial of St Aleksandr Nevksy Cathedral in Sofia and the Birthday of Patriarch Maksim


Bulgarian Orthodox believers assembled Sunday morning at the St Aleksandr Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia for a special Divine Liturgy commemorating the centenary of the cathedral’s construction. This marks the beginning of a three-day festival by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, celebrating not only the centenary, but also the 130th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the cathedral, and the 98th birthday of Patriarch Maksim Minkov.

Born 29 October 1914, Maksim was enthroned as head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in 1971; he’s the eldest head of an autocephalous Orthodox Church in history. Patriarch Maksim’s health has been unstable of late, he’s currently in hospital due to dizziness and instability; believers will pray for him Sunday and Monday.

The construction of St Aleksandr Nevsky Cathedral began in 1882; it’s one of Sofia’s most significant landmarks and the Bulgarian Patriarch’s Cathedral. It wasn’t complete until 1912; its formal dedication didn’t occur until 1924. Late Saturday, a copy of the miraculous Dostoino Yest (It Is Truly Meet) icon of the Mother of God from Mount Athos arrived at the cathedral for the festivities.

28 October 2012


Sofia News Agency



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