Everyone remembers how the late great Mark Bernes sang this wonderful and positive song… I Love You, Life! This is one of my all-time faves…
Everyone remembers how the late great Mark Bernes sang this wonderful and positive song… I Love You, Life! This is one of my all-time faves…
Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov (1958- ), the Superior of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow. On the one hand, he’s an excellent spiritual writer… on the other, he’s a lickspittle to the oligarchs, and many think him pro-Western. He’s an enigma… “Is he a white horse with black stripes, or, is he a black horse with white stripes?” (as Churchill famously asked about Franco)
The Russian Orthodox Church is furiously trying to calm a media storm after police uncovered a brothel on the grounds of one of Moscow’s most prestigious monasteries. The “hotel for lovers” was operating out of a building belonging to the Sretensky Monastery, an ancient institution just up the road from the headquarters of the Federal Security Service. Police arrested two women, from the Ukraine and Tajikistan, during a raid at the weekend. The institution’s seedy reputation was apparently well known. Local media reported that it rented out its seven rooms by the hour, at rates starting from 1,750 Roubles (56 USD. 43 Euros. 35 UK Pounds).
Founded in 1395, the monastery is one of the city’s oldest religious institutions. Legend has it that it was founded on the spot where Muscovites met a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary brought from the neighbouring city of Vladimir to save Moscow from Tamerlane‘s marauding armies. Many say that the monastery’s Superior, Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, is President Vladimir Putin‘s personal spiritual adviser. Fr Tikhon hit back at what he called a “media sensation” surrounding the brothel, telling a state-owned channel that the “lovers’ hotel” was in a building the monastery acquired only recently, and that evicting the current business occupying the premises was one of the conditions of the sale. He even joked that the church was “lucky” the issue had finally been dealt with, saying, “Today’s storm in the media is just one example of how people are willing to take any slander and not only make a vulgar joke out of it, but launch a very real information attack against the Church”.
31 October 2012
I asked for some confirmation from Moscow sources. The buzz is that Tikhon’s pissed off certain factions with his too-close relationship with the oligarch set (Marat Gelman and Prokhorov were mentioned), some even called it a set-up that Tikhon wasn’t street-smart enough to detect. Other voices on the grapevine think that it’s an intra-Church feud (one mentioned the Kapalin brothers). There’s no uniform intel, so, it’s a case of “you pays your money and you takes your choice”. My choice is “it’s too muddled to tell”… I think that I have plenty of company in thinking that…
None of us has a completely “lucky” life… that means that Fr Tikhon will have a “bump” or two in the road ahead, and he might find himself unable to deal with it… that’s the way of it in the world, isn’t it?
He’s a good man, but naïve. That’s because he’s naturally very gifted; he’s had everything handed to him on a platter, so, he’s never had to suffer. That’s why he’s immature, as maturity comes from suffering. That’s why he couldn’t see through Basil Rodzianko and why he adores Bloom… sheer naïveté and inexperience in life.
I got interesting feedback from the Cabinet on Tikhon Shevkunov:
You should be aware that Fr Tikhon is quite opposed to the left and to Zyuganov personally. He rather PREFERS the capitalists and Western-leaning oligarchs. He’s a great spiritual leader and he’s entitled to his opinions. I don’t dislike him, but don’t look to him to agree with you. I know that he rather likes JP.
I’m rather ambivalent about him. Spiritually, he’s top-drawer; after all, he kicked Kochetkov out on his arse. Personally, he’s a disaster area; he sucks up to the rich. He introduced Dickie Wood to the Vanil Restoran crowd. He’s the MP‘s culture czar because he’s a pal of Marat Gelman. I hear that he and Charlie don’t get on well.
Yet a third piped up:
I got some more replies, but they were in the same vein, with no new info. In short, Tikhon Shevkunov is utterly reliable spiritually, but he’s a suck-up to the oligarchs and their American paymasters. He’s not representative of the MP episcopate. Indeed, whispers tell me that he’s never going to be a bishop:
He’s the chaplain to the oligarchs… he’ll go down when they do.
HH isn’t stupid… he didn’t lift a finger to help Dickie or Fathausen. Yet, Fr Tikhon is ambivalent about JP, too. He didn’t get himself photographed with JP when El Gordo was at the Centre. I think that he knew that JP was “radioactive” and acted accordingly…
In short, the world’s being itself. I’ve always wondered why Tikhon Shevkunov wasn’t a bishop… now, I know (hell, I have lacunae in my knowledge, I’m human). HH is a leftist politically… that explains why he’d want to limit the influence of a cleric that he thought was in the thrall of the oligarchs (and, quite possibly, the Americans). That’s sad… Tikhon’s solid spiritually and writes well. As I said, the world’s being its crank self. Pass me the jug…
Monday 8 October 2012
On Friday, Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, superior of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow and the Executive Secretary of the MP Patriarchal Council for Culture, said in an interview that Russia doesn’t need laws to protect the feelings of religious believers, but the state should deploy its power to defend the country against what he called acts of spiritual terrorism, saying, “We need clear succinct laws in order to defend both religious and secular verities from malicious abuse, which, in my view, is nothing less than spiritual terrorism. In my opinion, believers’ feelings need no protection other than from the Lord Himself”.
Last week, Russian lawmakers submitted draft legislation calling for prison sentences of up to five years for individuals convicted of “insulting citizens’ religious beliefs and feelings”. The bill came in the wake of the imprisonment of three members of Pussy Riot for performing a “punk prayer” criticising President Vladimir Putin in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow in February. A court convicted Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Maria Alyokhina of aggravated hooliganism and sentenced them to two years in prison. The saga sparked international outrage, with foreign governments criticising the punishment as excessive, and music stars like Madonna and Paul McCartney publicly expressing their support for the three women.
Fr Tikhon, who spoke Friday after a presentation of the English-language version of his book Everyday Saints and Other Stories at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, conceded that the church might court similar provocations by taking a hard line against incidents like the Pussy Riot performance, observing, “Nevertheless, if these jokers are going around desecrating crosses and churches, dancing on altars, and defiling museums left and right, and everyone just shuts their mouths and thinks it’ll go away, that won’t work either”. Fr Tikhon suggested that Russia might consider implementing punishments similar to those in Israel, where anyone convicted of desecrating a holy place can face up to seven years in prison.
Fr Tikhon is widely rumoured to be Putin’s spiritual adviser, although he declined to comment when an audience member at Friday’s presentation asked about his relationship to “someone in the Kremlin”. He replied, “There’s no point in discussing rumours”. The release of Everyday Saints and Other Stories in the USA came amid celebrations of the fifth anniversary of the reconciliation of the MP and the ROCOR. The festivities include a 20-day, nine-city tour across the USA by the all-male Sretensky Monestary Choir, which performed two pieces at the presentation of Fr Tikhon’s book on Friday.
6 October 2012
Shame on the English translator… a more accurate reading of the title is Unholy Holiness… they “castrated” the title, depriving it of its full power and meaning. Holiness is usually “unholy”… that is, it doesn’t please the pietistic bastards who fancy themselves religious. In short, I’d wonder where else they “softened” and “dumbed down” the text to please the terminally-religious. Remember, to be “holy” means loving the truth… and poseurs (such as the First Families, SVS, and konvertsy) hate the truth (“You can’t say that! They’re such GOOD people!”). That means that you won’t find holiness amongst those screaming the loudest about it. Holiness is where it is… not where it’s bruited about. In fact, some of the worst perverters of the Faith… such as Arius, Avvakum Petrov, Aleksandr Vvedensky, Alexander Schmemann, and Gleb Podmoshensky (Fathausen was a drooling disciple of the last-named heretic)… fooled many with their smarmy pietism and patina of superficial religiosity. Holiness is REAL… that means that you’ll only see it if you look at the world for what it truly is… and most of us aren’t prepared to do that.
I wonder if Potapov was around for this shindig… he probably was, but the SVR probably warned Fr Tikhon of the fact that Potapov’s a Langley asset, so, he’ll be polite and non-committal around him. After all, I (and many others) know of Victor’s loud opinions prior to the reconciliation… and who signed his pay-cheque. Will the real Victor Potapov please stand up (shades of To Tell the Truth)? Never turn your back on his ilk… it’s not healthy (do remember Potapov’s tirade against a relative carried by the ROCOR official website).
Everyday Saints and Other Stories, the English version of Russia’s number-one bestseller, had its American release on 1 October 2012. The book’s author, Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, abbot of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, will participate in the American festivities surrounding the fifth anniversary of the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church, which includes an American tour of the Sretensky Choir (6-23 October 6-23). Archimandrite Tikhon will present the book and answer questions at the Library of Congress in the European Conference room of the Jefferson Building, at 11.00 EDT 5 October 2012. He’ll also be available for select interviews, upon request.
A national sales success reminiscent of the Harry Potter phenomenon, this amazing work portrays people the author knew personally who were like Dostoevsky‘s starets Zosima. It’s already won two Russian national awards, the prestigious “Book of the Year” award, and the Russian Internet Award. There were 30 times more votes for this book in the Internet Award competition than the next runner-up. As one baffled critic wrote, the phenomenal success of Fr Tikhon’s book is “causing a real shock to all the booksellers in Russia”. This book, written by a priest and modestly displayed in several Moscow bookstores, not only instantly exhausted its print-run of 60,000 copies, but also a second printing of 300,000 copies. Those copies left the shelves within one month. Less than a year has passed since the book’s release and the book has been reprinted six times… a total of 1,100,000 copies. The total number of electronic versions purchased is estimated at no fewer than three million copies. Moreover, the book is being translated into ten European languages and will soon be sold all over the world.
With recent attacks on the clergy by the media, it’s hard to imagine anywhere in Western Europe or the USA where a book written by a priest, about the church, would not only become a runaway national bestseller and leap off the shelves of the all the secular bookstores, but also cause traffic jams on Internet sites. What’s the secret of this book’s success? Firstly, there’s the author’s undisputed talent. The book is extremely engaging and reads like a good detective novel. Second, all the stories are brimming with an inimitable light, joy, and good-natured humour that we all seem to have forgotten still exists. It is a longed-for dose of positivity. Besides, all the stories are true. Reading about one miracle after another, the author’s co-religionists may understand the events described as quite normal, but others are left utterly amazed. They might even find them hard to believe if it weren’t for the fact that many of the people involved are still alive and well-known. Most everyone can recognise such late protagonists as Boris Yeltsin, Sergei Bondarchuk (producer of the internationally acclaimed War and Peace), or World War II hero Marshal Zhukov. It’s a glimpse into the unfathomable Russian soul… some call it mysterious, others enigmatic, but no one will regret their effort to enter this uncanny, beautiful world.
The book, written by the monastery’s Abbot, Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, is terrifically engaging thanks to its depth and evocative storytelling. An instant sensation on the Russian literary scene, Everyday Saints and Other Stories has already received several prestigious awards. For the first time in decades, a book written by an Orthodox priest, a monk, has sold over a million copies and become a hot topic of a nationwide intellectual debate. People read it on their commute and discuss it with their friends and families. The secret of Fr Tikhon’s literary success lies not only in his talent but also in his remarkable sincerity. The author cuts to the very heart of the problems of our human existence and inner life. Without becoming moralistic or didactic, he focuses the reader’s attention upon eternal, unshakable values.
Fr Tikhon successfully fulfilled an extremely important task, combining the ability to formulate the problems of life with true faith using modern language, beginning a dialogue with modern man on his own territory, yet avoiding all banality and primitive cliché. The author refuses to fit faith into the framework of piety in order to make it more appetising, or even presenting it at the cost of diluting or changing it. He doesn’t stand on a pedestal or try to convince anyone; he only recounts his own experience, sharing it, but never playing upon his listener.
Fr Tikhon’s style is eminently readable and accessible to the general reader, and the translation into English is excellent. It’s a great contribution to the literature on contemporary Orthodoxy; it should go far in increasing awareness of and knowledge about the Orthodox Church in the West.
5 October 2012