Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Ways of Holy Russia (A Pilgrimage of Viktor Yanukovich to Mount Athos)

All illustrations in this post are labelled as being from St Panteleimon Monastery (Russikon) on Mount Athos. The Russikon is one of the twenty ruling houses of the Monastic Republic.

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Editor’s Foreword:

I was looking for something to prove Viktor Fyodrovich’s long association with the Mountain… and I found something… it’s a good read. God has replaced a militantly godless worshipper of American secular corporatism (who favoured Uniates and schismatics) with a true son of the Church.

BMD

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Amongst Ukrainian politicians, only Viktor Yanukovich is a legitimate candidate for president. His visit to Mount Athos showed that he was prepared to subordinate his will to the voice of antiquity, to the creators of Holy Russia.

Fr Yevgeni Gordeichik

Why listen to everybody? You should only listen to those who speak the truth.

Igor Shafarevich

Well, all the televised debates have died away. All the orange and blue balloons tethered to cars are gone, too. Ordinary people, for the first time in the past few months, diverted their attention from politics and went back to their children, cottages, and accumulated household chores. Very clearly, we saw the will of the people… Viktor Yanukovich became the President and the head of the Ukrainian government. The recent elections were quite suspenseful, up until the last day, it was objectively impossible to predict who would win. Still, I think, a victory for Yanukovich was determined much earlier, even before the campaign started. It was determined on a day in August, a day when Viktor Fyodrovich, then, Prime Minister, visited Mount Athos…

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Athos is the earthly abode of the Blessed Virgin. After the Ascension of the Saviour and the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, the apostles cast lots to see who’d go to preach Orthodoxy in what place, all the way to the ends of the earth. At all times, the Mother of God accompanied the apostles; she drew the lot of preaching Christianity in present-day Georgia. However, when Apostle John the Theologian sailed to the coast of Iberia, a storm erupted on the sea. After several days of tossing about the waves, the ship washed up on the shores of an island. When the Virgin Mary came ashore, at the same time, a statue of Apollo in a pagan temple on a mountaintop broke into pieces. When the surprised residents rushed to greet her, her feet crushed the idols, and when they heard about the coming of the Saviour of Mankind into the world, they accepted baptism and became Christians. In return, the Most Holy Mother of God promised that her blessings would always be upon this place.

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A visit to Mount Athos is the most cherished dream of every Christian man. I doubt whether technological progress has facilitated the making of a pilgrimage. Distances have been shrunk, but progress constricts a person’s life, as if it’s squeezed by time. Yes, the spirit of the present generation isn’t the same as it once was. Most of those who go to the Holy Mountain go there not as pilgrims, but as ordinary tourists. Certainly, many of us resent the construction of a high-speed motorway leading to Athos, or the demands from the European parliament to allow women on the Mountain, but we’re guilty of this ourselves, too. Even Orthodox pilgrims to the Holy Mountain don’t breathe in her monastic spirit, but we go only for photo ops next to New Roman churches, so what should we expect from outsiders… However, in the era of New Rome and Kievan Rus, not only wealthy merchants, but also Roman emperors and princes of the northern lands, considered it their duty to worship, even in absentia, at the shrines of Athos. Before they ascended the throne, it was necessary for them to seek a blessing from the elders on the Mountain, so that they could administer the realm according to the divine law and be able to settle a fair trial. In consequence, they gave donations to the monasteries, and along with the generous gifts from the rulers, they sent lamps of precious metals, which burned before the miraculous icons of the Mother of God as a sign that their hearts always dwelt on Athos.

Amongst contemporary politicians, only Prince Charles of England makes a regular pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain. He spends several months on Athos every year. It’s rumoured that he converted to Orthodoxy and that one of the elders of the Mountain is his spiritual father, and only the dynastic laws of the United Kingdom, according to which only Anglicans may ascend to the British throne, prevents him from being open about his decision. Therefore, the pilgrimage of Viktor Yanukovich to the Holy Mountain was an event of exceptional importance. It’s very telling that only he, of all the presidential candidates, began his campaign not with arrogant and ostentatious political rallies, but with many hours of prayer before the miraculous icon of the Most Holy Mother of God at St Panteleimon Monastery [on Athos]. Of course, people often say that politics is always a dirty business, and to ask the Mother of God’s blessing on a political campaign is a sacrilege. However, we must remember that God’s manifestations in the world aren’t always the same; they’re consistent with the spiritual state of the time.

Let’s look at the last European Football Championship, where the Greek national team miraculously defeated the Portuguese team. The Archbishop of Athens gave the team his blessing, and all of Greece prayed for the victory of the Greek footballers, so, they won against a much stronger opponent. Today, sporting events have a very significant role in forming our mentality. Behold, the Lord revealed to the world the truth of the Orthodox faith and the impotence of the Catholic fallacies using a rather unusual method. The Holy Fathers discouraged participation in sport, but in this case, the Greek players performed an act of charity, in a sense, preaching Orthodoxy, and they became channels of grace.

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Naturally, after spending a night on the Holy Mountain in the prayer before the icon of the Holy Godbearer, Viktor Fyodrovich didn’t become a saint. His visit to the Mountain was something entirely different. For some reason, those politicians who call themselves democrats forget that the basic principle of democracy, that it bend to the preference of the majority over that of the minority, can’t be limited to the current generation. The right to vote belongs not only to us, but also to our ancestors who for thousands of years built up Holy Rus, and to our posterity. Our folk tradition defines very clearly the will of the dead and the unborn, they’re ideals for which our ancestors lived, and they’re so rooted in the people’s memory that they, even without realising it, will live in our future. Our tradition is that any Ukrainian ruler, from Grand Prince St Vladimir to the Zaporozhian Ataman, before taking power, would seek a blessing from the Mother of God. He’d try to make a pilgrimage to her earthly abode… Holy Mount Athos. If he couldn’t go himself, he’d send donations and lampadas to Mount Athos, which hung in front of the most revered icons of the monasteries and represented the fact that a ruler treated his right to control the destinies of the people not as a privilege, but as a service, as a way to achieve personal holiness. Therefore, only Viktor Yanukovich amongst Ukrainian politicians is a legitimate candidate for president. Through his visit to Mount Athos, he showed that he was prepared to subordinate his will to the voice of antiquity, to the creators of Holy Russia. Of course, a night spent in prayer couldn’t help but leave a trace in the soul of Viktor Fyodrovich. The Lord doesn’t leave unanswered any sincere request. However, there’s no doubt that the pilgrimage of Yanukovich to the shrines of Athos visit was absolutely sincere. A person can hypocritically pose for the cameras with a candle in his hands, but to keep vigil during the long hours of a service on Athos [for the sake of appearances]… that’s unlikely. I’m confident that, having spent the night in sleepless vigil that night in August, Viktor Fyodrovich received God’s grace and strength to rule the country wisely, to combine charity with Christian courage, and to show impartiality as a leader.

One of the Athonite ascetics, the Righteous Siluan, wrote that in the early stages of the relationship of the human soul to the Creator, each person receives great grace, the grace to be holy. However, over time, people close their eyes to this. To return to this blessed state is very difficult, one can only achieve this through the most arduous effort. For Viktor Fyodrovich, the most important point now isn’t to allow the rush of current events to overwhelm him. As soon as possible, he must do the things that he’s called to do as God’s chosen ruler. It seems to me that any Orthodox president should begin his term with the eradication of the schism. The schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy has purely artificial and artificial causes. Simply put, a Ukrainian Local Church never existed. Even during the Polish rule over the Ukraine, a time when the Kiev Metropolia was subject to the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Ukrainian Church remained a part of the Russian Local Church. The Trebnik (Prayer Book) of St Pyotr Mogila, who wasn’t a “Russophile”, wasn’t written in Ukrainian, it was written in Church Slavonic. The Denisenko schism {the so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church/Patriarchate of Kiev: editor} is the fruit of the arrogance of the disgraced metropolitan and bought-off pro-Western officials loyal to the motto “divide and conquer”.

Schism in the Church isn’t a purely Ukrainian problem, similar phenomena occured in the majority of Orthodox post-Soviet countries. As soon as pro-American politicians replaced party officials, schisms immediately arose. The most illustrative example was found in Bulgaria. Conflict between the canonical Bulgarian Church and dissident groups was no less than that found between the supporters of the canonical UOC/MP and such sects as the Denisenko group. However, once healthy forces came to power in Bulgaria, who were conscious of the disastrous effects the schism had for the state, and who consistently supported the canonical Orthodox Church, the source of confrontation exhausted itself. Return of the schismatics to the canonical Church went very smoothly.

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No less important a priority task of any Orthodox president should be the reform of Ukrainian education. Today, under the guise of health culture and promoting healthy lifestyles, children are taught using hard-core pornography. They’re taught that it’s harmful to “force oneself to wait” [in sexual matters]. During the introduction of health culture as a mandatory subject, mental illness amongst adolescents increased several times. Instead of neo-pagan courses in health culture in secondary schools, we should introduce the course “Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture”. There’s nothing anti-democratic in this. Studying a course covering Orthodox culture doesn’t necessarily presuppose that one confesses Orthodoxy. Whether one likes it or not, the Ukraine was built by Orthodox people and upon the ideals of the Orthodox Church. Our faiths don’t divide us [as a people], but you must know the history of the people amongst whom you live… Any Orthodox president, as did all his predecessors in spirit, the right-believing Princes and Kings, must heed the voice of the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, the First Hierarch of the all-Russian Church. After all, the Church is not only a community of believers, but also a social institution, which, through the preservation of its continuity over the generations in its traditions, brings stability to society. Therefore, the secular leader can’t seek the moral ideals of his rule in abstract reasoning. He has to ask the Church to instruct him in what ideals he should pass on to the people. Therefore, Viktor Yanukovich, besides spiritual guidance from His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir, received a blessing for his campaign from His Holiness Aleksei Ridiger, Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias. We must be aware that the borders of the state need not necessarily coincide with the boundaries of the nation {this is the classical European distinction between the “state”, the government, and the “nation”, a people with a distinct culture. Ergo, a state could have many “nations” within its borders: editor}. No one disputes the independence of the Ukraine, but in its separation from its brothers, it isn’t necessary to curse them. A common alliance of faith and a common destiny unites us. It should be clear that we’re aware of the fact that we, as Eastern Slavs, have one faith and one history, so, therefore, we share a common destiny, the beginning of which lies in the Righteous Antony of the Kievo-Pecherskago Lavra who received the blessing of Holy Mount Athos… our future glory is in our hands.

Fr Yevgeni Gordeichik

(Introduction is undated, internal evidence points to a publication date of the introduction after late February 2010 and before May 2010. The body of the post by Fr Yevgeni apparently dates from 24 November 2004)

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