Voices from Russia

Monday, 23 November 2009

Apples Ain’t Oranges… What This Site is Not


It seems to disappoint some people that I don’t focus on “theological” or “spiritual” matters. Firstly, I’m NOT a theologian. To put it clearly, neither are most of the other posters on the internet, including clergy. In the sense that I’m using now, a “theologian” has advanced training in theology and is proficient in the ancient theological languages (Greek, Latin, Syriac, or Hebrew will do). Canonists are similar; all the real ones can read the canons in the original Greek (none of the konvertsy commentary on the Canons is legit, as it comes from reading poor unofficial translations of the Pedalion (The Rudder)). Very few have either kind of knowledge… most priests only have enough theology to enable them to do their jobs competently. That’s to say, I know of no actual and solid academic theologian or canonist who’s posting on the Net in English (the only exception to the rule is Fr Alexander Lebedeff, who’s an accomplished canonist).

Secondly, I’m not an elder. Nope, nada, nichevo, no way José. Neither are any of the other posters on the internet (none of the married priests on the net are “elders”, despite their status as “internet gurus” amongst the konvertsy). That’s to say, be wary of “spiritual advice” found on the net. In the main, those dispensing it on the web are gropers in the dark themselves… so, caveat lector! A sweet nun (in the OCA, incidentally) told me that there are very few real elders in the USA and Canada, and that none of the married priests posing as such on the internet were the Real McCoy. She told me that I was lucky to be corresponding with a real eldress in Russia. Indeed, I’m writing this piece in obedience to one of Mother’s ideas. She never “orders”… she never pretends to be a “fool in Christ”… she’s very ordinary and straightforward in her expression… as an elder should, I might add! “Why don’t you write an essay on what you’re not?” Now, that’s a wise suggestion!

Thirdly, I’m not a scholar. “Scholar” in this sense has a rather focused meaning. That is, a “scholar” has an advanced degree and works in academe. Therefore, many educated and intelligent people aren’t scholars and we wouldn’t find them in academe. Indeed, success in any field of endeavour requires intelligence, drive, and perseverance. One of the people that I respect very highly is Chef Paul Hyatt, one of my instructors in culinary school (there… I’ve studied both Russian history and haute cuisine cooking… what a combination!). He’s a consummate craftsman and an excellent instructor… but he isn’t a scholar. Hmm… I think that many would agree with me that the very things lacking in most windy scholars in academe are precisely intelligence, drive, and perseverance!

There must be “truth in advertising”. I’m NOT writing on theology or commentary on the Fathers and/or the Canons of the Church. I’m NOT writing “spiritual advice” to seekers. I’m NOT writing an academic monograph with full scholarly apparatus and footnotes.

What am I, then? I’m an internet journalist who covers the Russian Orthodox beat. To do this, I read articles on the Church in the secular Russian press and translate them into English so that you can read them too. There are many other articles that I read that “don’t make the cut”. Quite frankly, I have a limited amount of time, and I spend it on what I feel is informative for my audience. I also write commentary on the institutional Church based on my reading and experience. If you’re looking for “edifying reading”, DON’T stop here. If you’re looking for mawkish “niceness” and trivial “therapeutese”, please, do look elsewhere. This site is a place where adults gather to discuss the Church as it is… warts and all. If there’s a Slim Shady priest who plants an oily smile on his face as he unctuously informs you, “The records simply don’t exist”, I’m gonna give ‘im both barrels and suggest very strongly that you do the same. If there’s a bishop who says, “It’s all over! Everything has changed!” I’m going to inspect the situation, and if the statement doesn’t fit the reality… I’m NOT going to remain silent and “pay, pray, and obey”… and neither should you!

The Church is the Body of Christ. Our Lord Christ is both human and divine… the Church teaches us that… it’s something that you MUST believe to be a Christian. If the Church is the Body of Christ, and Christ is both human and divine, then, it stands to good reason that His Body, the Church, is both human and divine. That being so, the Church’s head is in Heaven whilst it plants it feet firmly on the ground. One of the oddest notions that I’ve seen met is that we should attend only to “theology” and avoid “church politics”. I’d say that such a fancy is Manichaean… at first, I thought it unalloyed Monophysitism, but its hostility to anything earthly and earthy marks it as purely Manichaean and Gnostic. If we need to attend to both body and soul to be healthy people, wouldn’t it be the same for the Church? I think that those who tell us to stick to “theology alone” often have an agenda and we need to look closely at them and their doings… one might find something, nicht wahr?


Tsar, Pope, and Rich Man… the Scourge of the Working Class

Aleksandr Apsit


“Pope” was an insulting usage for a grasping parish priest. There was a reason people stood aside during the time when the Reds persecuted the Church… all too often, it was a result of the Church’s own behaviour, like it or not. Therefore, I shall NOT remain silent when I see their analogues today.


Our theology must be straight, so, our earthly dealings should be straight, too. If we wish to keep the soul of the Church clean, we should keep the body of the Church as clean as is humanly possible. If we wink at corrupt clergy, immoral bishops, lying Church spokesmen, and simoniac diocesan officials, we’ll have hell to pay… literally. Don’t forget that such nasty behaviour was one of the reasons that the Bolshevik persecution of the Church succeeded. The Church brought some of its persecution upon itself. That is, God cleaned out this noisome and filthy mess the only way that He could… He used the Reds as His instruments. Now… that’s a meaty thing to mull over, isn’t it?

So, what is this site? It’s a place where we look at the news and do our best to make sense of it… nothing more. God willing, it’s been as informative for you as it’s been for me. Remember, apples ain’t oranges… they don’t taste the same, either! Do pass me the jug… this is thirsty work… have a swig yourself… it’s an INTERESTING world out there, isn’t it?



I must add that my staritsa asked me to sign anything that was “editorial”. She believes that anonymous posting is sinful. To be clear, that’s her opinion, it isn’t a formal Church teaching. However, I find myself agreeing with it… what about you?


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