Voices from Russia

Monday, 16 November 2009

A Video Tribute to Patriarch Pavle

Nothing need be said… Vechnaya yemu pamyat!

Get Your Mind Right!

The Clark Williamstown MA

Interior of “The Clark” (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute) in Williamstown MA.


The ROCOR has always been good at celebrating liturgy. Wouldn’t it be nice if it also had someone who knew something about it? Go tell your bishop that and let me know what he says.

Robert Taft, SJ


Some of our faithful experience Orthodoxy first and foremost as fear, while their faith remains largely uninspired, uncurious, and hence uninformed. Such an Orthodoxy often has no idea about its own tradition, about the wealth of history behind the liturgy one attends every Sunday, or even about scripture itself. At the same time, a fearful Orthodox is often willing to spend hours in the Internet, feeding on church politics and dulling the theological senses all the more.

Mother Vassa Larina


I do NOT agree with either of the statements at the head of this post. Mr Taft is nothing but a Uniate windbag, no grounded Orthodox Christian takes anything that he says seriously. A priest-friend of mine said, “Robert Taft is a known quantity, he’s been around for well over thirty years… he’s just another Jesuit spouting through his spiritually empty brain. He’s of no interest at all”. I agree. As one of the comments on my site said, “’Archimandrite’ Robert Taft speaks the same language as ADS (that he quotes approvingly). Underneath the professed admiration for Eastern Churches is the same spite of the ‘West’ for the ‘East’. To make such a one the judge of our Liturgy is a serious faux pas, however… ‘Foremost leading authority on Byzantine liturgy’. God have mercy!” I agree with that too.

Yet another person said about Mr Taft, “I’ve got one of Taft’s volumes on the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom (the Communion volume). After the hype I’d heard concerning his work, particularly this very multi-volume series, I was severely disappointed in reading through it. The evidence is insufficiently presented and poorly handled. But he has a ‘name’ doesn’t he? Perhaps, that will suffice for some”. I think that one notes that none of this criticism is illiterate, rude, or expressed unfittingly or in an ignorant way. Indeed, I would argue that this piece is not that, either. Therefore, Mother Vassa should retract the statement, “Their faith remains largely uninspired, uncurious, and hence uninformed. Such an Orthodoxy often has no idea about its own tradition, about the wealth of history behind the liturgy one attends every Sunday, or even about scripture itself”. It is manifestly untrue and is the defensive reaction of an intellectual to criticism not coming from the academic milieu or couched in scholarly language.

I would remind Mother Vassa, in all kindness, generosity, and charity that one can find many intelligent people outside academe in industry, commerce, trade, agriculture, the fine and performing arts, the forces, the Church, and all other forms of human endeavour. I would warn Mother Vassa that her interview made her sound like a priggish and stuck-up pseudo-intellectual… however, the same priest who (rightfully) dismissed Robert Taft, said, “Vassa Larina comes in two halves. One is fully Orthodox; the other is merely academic. When she speaks as an academic, she’s often rather wishy-washy”. As I respect my friend, I respect his judgement of Mother Vassa. In other words, he seems to say, “Cut her some slack, she has good instincts”. Yes… that’s right. However, I do not believe that I am in the wrong to point up that the Orthodox side must rule the academic side, and not vice-versa. It may very well be that relative youth and inexperience is the cause of this… didn’t we all wish to impress others (especially “important” people) when we were younger? Now that I am in my middle-50s, I don’t care about such, not one bit! One of my older friends tells me that such an impulse gets stronger as one ages. Perhaps, this is something that time shall take care of naturally (there are many such things… aren’t there?). Taft has a big “name” and she wanted to strut her intellectual stuff… well, I shan’t dump a ton o’ bricks on her for that, for we all did the same thing at one time or another. If you tell me that you didn’t… I won’t argue with you… for it’s bad form to argue with fools, drunks, simpletons, and the “respectable”… you’ll never win and you’ll be at it until the last trump (it’s one of the many forms of pig rasslin’).

Kursk Icon crowd Russian Orthodox faithful

Orthodox gathered for a procession in Kursk with the Kursk Root Icon. They don’t look very  fearful to me!


I do not think that grounded Orthodox fear the outside world. To cite an example, a recent news article reported that Igumen Vitaly Utkin, the Secretary of the Diocese of Ivanovo-Voznesensky, created a “rapid response team” of educated priests ready to go to colleges and other places where there are young intellectuals. That doesn’t sound like fear at all! That sounds to me like Fr Vitaly is blowing the bugle and folks are gathering around the flag! I think that people such as Deacon Andrei Kuraev, Igumen Sergei Rybko, Professor Kirill Frolov, Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, Archbishop Vikenty Morar, and Professor Aleksei Osipov are facing the future boldly… they are not cowering in fear.

To say, “Some of our faithful experience Orthodoxy first and foremost as fear, while their faith remains largely uninspired, uncurious, and hence uninformed. Such an Orthodoxy often has no idea about its own tradition, about the wealth of history behind the liturgy one attends every Sunday, or even about scripture itself” is pure poppycock and unduly dismissive of non-academic discourse. For instance, I do not go to Church to analyse the liturgy, for “instruction”, or to get “information”. I go to the services to PRAY. What a concept! That a person would go to church to pray to Almighty God… I thought that is the purpose of the Church. If Mother Vassa does not check this side of her personality, she’ll end like ADS and others. However, I believe that she is far from that point and shall (God willing) easily turn away from that outcome.

Yet, I see the point that our clergy must have education and general ability, but, that does NOT mean that they must focus on academics. Indeed, they had best not stress such too much, for then they would be useless as pastors. I think that Patriarch Kirill put it best in a recent statement, “If we take losers, the mediocre, and non-starters, that is, people with various mental problems, into seminary, the Church’s mission will fail; such people will be unable to bring the Church into the hearts of modern man. This would leave the Church to poorly educated people; it would only be for grandmas who have no knowledge of English or the Fathers. This doesn’t mean that we should discriminate against grandmas in our church community, but, it does mean that the church should aim to work with everyone, not only grandmas, but, also, with contemporary young people who may express criticisms of the Church.

Badly-educated and boorish people too often become anti-cultural obscurantists. They defend and justify their low educational and cultural level with zealotry and ostentatious piety. Thus, we reproduce and replicate this image… it becomes a new ‘ideal’, which we saw quite recently in an exacerbated form in the Chukotka [dispute with Bishop Diomid Dzyuban]. I am afraid that we’ll have a long fight with this monstrous phenomenon. It has nothing in common with genuine piety, nothing to do with the patristic example. Without theology, we begin to transmit, in the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘old wives’ tales’ (1 Timothy 4:7) instead of true church tradition. Indeed, when we don’t oppose such ‘old wives’ tales’, they become part of local practise. Then, we lose the ability to discern one thing from another, to discriminate between legitimate and false. On this soil are born heresy and schism, when ‘old wives’ tales’ become in the minds of the people part of the teaching [of the Church], they become for them the centre of the Gospel”.


St Maksim Sandovych, Hieromartyr of Lemkovshchyna (1886-1914)… killed by the Hapsburgs and their Uniate toadies… remember him when you think that Bob Taft is making sense, Mother Vassa… I know your instincts are good… get your mind right, too!


That’s not fearful in the least! Where does Mother Vassa find this fear? If it’s because she resents that many of us don’t care for her association with Bob Taft (and have the guts to say so to her face (politely and civilly, of course))… she’d best grow up and understand that most grounded Orthodox are suspicious of Uniates and Uniatism. I would commend to her the lives of Ss Germogen of Moscow and Maksim Sandovich of Lemkovshchyna. Orthodox DIED for their faith in the face of Uniatism and papism. We do not find her connection with Mr Taft reprehensible because of our fear of the “other”. Rather, it comes from a deep sense of history and shared experience that we cannot express in intellectual terms. In short, it is WRONG, profoundly and horridly WRONG. It is NOT fear that would make me say, “STOP!” to you if I knew that you are in imminent danger of stepping on a land mine. NO! Prudence and (yes) love would make me speak out.

I should say that I fully realise and appreciate the role of the intellect in both our ordinary lives and in our spiritual endeavours. However, we must never forget that academe does NOT have a monopoly on knowledge. My Nicky is always saying, “Get your mind right!” To be sure, I would argue that a creative tension exists between high culture and mass pursuits, but we must approach them with a proper attitude. Indeed, I wrote earlier in reply to a comment on this site, “Let’s be frank… Popeye and Renoir are not mutually exclusive! In fact, I would say that they are complementary, and that one cannot understand high culture without a concomitant love for popular culture… if you can’t appreciate Kevin Bloody Wilson and George Formby, you can’t fully comprehend Pavarotti and Yuri Temirkanov! THERE!”

I can appreciate a Renoir at the Clark and the wisdom found in I Eats My Spinach (it’s there… trust me!). Beethoven’s Seventh (I am thinking of the old recording from the 50s by Guido Cantelli) moves me and I laugh heartily at Kevin Bloody Wilson singing Manuel the Bandito. I’ll scarf down a brace of rippers at Rutt’s Hutt in Jersey, then, I’ll have an Ethiopian feast at the Blue Nile on the West Side (if it’s still open, that is).

God willing, Mother Vassa will return to her sound instincts. Perhaps, all this is one of those detours we all make in our lives. Sometimes, they are the most enlightening episodes of all… but, Mother, I would say to you, “Get your mind right! There’s no place like home”.

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Monday 16 November 2009

Albany NY

His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia reposed at 10.45 am on Sunday 15 November, after taking the Body and Blood of Christ

Filed under: biography,Christian,Orthodox hierarchs,religious,Serbia — 01varvara @ 00.00


His Holiness Patriarch Pavle Stojčević of Serbia (1914-2009)

His Holiness Patriarch Pavle (Paul) (Stojčević) of Serbia (1914-2009) led the Serbian Orthodox Church for nineteen years. This period coincided with the break-up of the Yugoslavia created by the Croat Communist Josip Tito. Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radović) of Montenegro, the acting head of the Church’s Holy Synod, said in a statement. “The repose of Patriarch Pavle is a huge loss for Serbia”. President Boris Tadić said in a statement. “There are people who bind together whole nations and Patriarch Pavle was such a person”.

Patriarch Pavle was born Gojko Stojčević in 1914 in Kućanci, a village then oppressed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in Croatia. In 1957, he became Bishop of Kosovo, by then home to a Nazi and Communist-imposed Albanian majority. His Holiness openly spoke of the hardships faced by Kosovo’s native Serbs and on one occasion in the 1970s was attacked and beaten. The fate of Kosovo remained at the top of his agenda after he became Patriarch in 1990, when growing tensions, fed by the Vatican and reunited Germany, were leading toward the Communist country’s violent break-up. This was exploited by those powers, who in their scramble for the former Yugoslavia, committed war crimes and bombed Belgrade in a geopolitical carve-up carried out by NATO and planned by Washington and its EU pawn.

A very humble man and also physically very short, His Holiness took public transport or walked, rather than ride in a chauffeur-driven car. He also cobbled his own shoes. Clergy and faithful all over the Orthodox world loved patriarch Pavle as a beacon of prayer and light in an ever-darkening atmosphere. It is expected that the next Patriarch will be Metropolitan Amfilohije, a highly-educated man, who like Patriarch Pavle well understands the need for the Serbian Orthodox Church to remain faithful to the uncompromised Orthodox Tradition, resisting the pressures of EU and US imperialism.

Metropolitan Amfilohije is a great friend of the Russian Church and many of us were fortunate enough to receive his blessing at the Fourth All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Church in San Francisco in 2006, at which he played a crucial and uniting role.

To His Holiness Patriarch Pavle:

Eternal Memory!

Vechnaya Yemu Pamyat!

15 November 2009

Orthodox England

The Orthodox World Lost a Podvizhnik and a Patriarch

Patriarch Pavle of Serbia 5

The faithful pass the coffin containing the body of Patriarch Pavle Stojčević of Serbia (1914-2009).

Editor’s Foreword:

There is no adequate English translation for the Russian word “podvizhnik”, or, its associated word, “podvig”. Pale analogues for “podvizhnik” are “hero”, “champion”, or “conqueror”. Faint synonyms for “podvig” are “heroism”, “bravery”, “valour”, or “feat”. These are VERY strong words in Russian… this usage of the Russian author is very high praise, indeed.


Serbia declared three days of mourning as the country mourns its deceased patriarch. He enjoyed enormous prestige; many even thought him a saint. They brought the coffin with the body of the late Patriarch Pavle to the Cathedral Church in Belgrade so that the faithful may bid farewell to him.

Pavle, the 44th First Hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, died in the 96th year of his life in the Hospital of the Military Medical Academy, where, due to serious illness, he did not leave for more than two years. The best doctors in Serbia fought for his life. Patriarch Pavle petitioned the Holy Synod to resign his post, but, the Synod decided not to violate ancient traditions and choose a new First Hierarch during the life of the current incumbent (Editor’s note: Pavle became Patriarch during the lifetime of his processor German Đorić. The refusal of Pavle’s resignation was an evasive tactic by the Holy Synod, for it feared an acrimonious fight over the succession, which it wished to avoid for the longest possible period). During his hospitalisation, Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović of Montenegro and Primorsky acted in his stead in the affairs of the church. He will remain the Patriarchal Locum Tenens until the election of a new First Hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Pavle lived a long and good life. In his youth, he opted for a theological education, and he graduated from the seminary and the academy. In the Second World War, he served as a military medic. In the mid-1940s, Pavle fell ill with tuberculosis, then, suddenly recovered. This prompted him to take monastic vows. In the 1950s, he defended his doctorate of theology, then, became a bishop, and began to study ethnic relations in Kosovo. He wrote to the Yugoslav authorities saying that there were violations of the rights of Serbs in the region. Pavle called upon them to develop policies that would suit both Albanians and the indigenous Serb population of the province. Unfortunately, the government did not act on this recommendation.

Pavle became patriarch in 1990. Soon afterwards, Yugoslavia collapsed and civil war broke out. Then, the bombing of Serbia by NATO forces ensued, leading to its partial occupation. During all these difficult times, Pavle did not abandon his flock. Even during his lifetime, many considered the patriarch holy. He led a very simple and humble life; he always wore the cheapest clothes, except during worship services. As long as his health permitted, he constantly travelled in Serbia and other republics of former Yugoslavia, he helped rebuild the churches destroyed during the bombing and military conflicts, and he did what he could in trying to reassure and comfort the victimised Serbian people.

“The death of Patriarch Pavle is an enormous and irreparable loss to the Serbian people”, President Boris Tadić said in a statement. President Tadić often visited Patriarch Pavle during the time of the His Holiness’ illness. “There are people who by the very fact of their life bond entire nations. Patriarch Pavle was such a man. His death for me is a personal loss. In regards to the difficult and complex issues that often befall Serbia, I always consulted with the patriarch and listened to his views”, Mr Tadić said.

The head of the Press Service of the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, Fr Vladimir Vigilyansky said to us in a telephone chat, “His Holiness Patriarch Pavle, the Serbian First Hierarch, was a unique personality. He was one of the most humble archpastors, but, he was aware of the problems of the modern church. We know that he was a great man of prayer, very modest, but, despite his modesty, a very strong-spirited man. He received the well-deserved recognition of the entire Orthodox world for his character, firmness of faith, and prayerfulness”.

The burial of Patriarch Pavle on 19 November, according to his will, will be at Rakovica monastery near Belgrade… the place where he once found a miraculous cure.

16 November 2009

Voice of Russia World Service


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