Voices from Russia

Saturday, 5 October 2013

A Word from the Patriarch: “Love Is the Most Important Thing in Life”

00 Patriarch Kirill with kids. 05.10.13


Editor’s Note:

The word podvig should NEVER be “Englished”… its one of the most powerful words in the Russian language. We should bring it into our Orthodox usage in English. There are literally no English equivalents strong enough. “Ascetic labour” is a mistranslation, as podvig has overtones of “epic”, “heroic”, “bravery”, “self-sacrifice”, “victory”, “effort”, and “triumph”. Besides, podvig has its secular uses, too. It’s not “religious”, and we shouldn’t make it such (for instance, we speak of the podvig of the fighters in both Great Patriotic Wars (and here)). It’s best to leave it as is, and admit that English lacks the necessary material to give meaning to this word.

These wise words from HH are a needed counterbalance to the zealous zaniness, overblown religiosity, rigid juridicism, and downright bizarre things that we often read in “Orthodox cyberspace”. “God IS Love”… don’t accept any counterfeits…



Love Is the Most Important Thing in Life

The Apostle said, But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ Then he spoke these words of great power and importance… by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Epistle of St Paul to the Galatians 6.14). What do these words of the Apostle mean? They can mean only one thing… that the Cross lies upon the whole world as a measure of Divine righteousness and Divine truth. More than anything else in life, people need a model, some standard that they can use to measure everything around them… the thoughts that come to them, the flood of information, the words of politicians and ordinary people, the actions of other people.

Contemporary philosophy, and the all-pervading view of life that comes from this treacherous attitude, asserts that man is a truth unto himself… that there are many goals, there are many truths, as there are many minds. I decide what’s good for me, and I don’t care if it’s good for anyone else. As if anticipating the terrible temptations of our times, the Apostle Paul said these inspiring words about the Cross by which the world is crucified; about the Cross on which appeared the fathomless, boundless, comprehensive, absolute Divine truth.

What is this truth, what is this absolute truth? God suffered out of love for mankind. If God does this, if He accepted suffering in the flesh of His Son, then, this is the most important, the most fundamental thing… everything revolves around this truth. In fact, Truth testifies that love is the main thing in life. Everything else is secondary. The commandment on love is the main commandment of Christianity; the Lord declares this commandment not only in words, but also by the podvig of His life. At the same time, He showed people that sacrifice always accompanies love. In a certain sense, love becomes synonymous with sacrifice, and sacrifice synonymous with love, because if in loving another we aren’t willing to do anything for them… that isn’t love.

Feelings of solidarity bind society together and solidarity always presupposes the ability of one person to serve another, the ability of one person to give something to another, and in extreme situations, for one to give his life for his neighbours (cf. Gospel according to St John 15.13). There’s no other way for the human race, no other road to happiness and fullness of life, than the path that Christ showed us. There’s no other law of human relationship; the law of love implies the giving of yourself to another person, and to receive in response the great gift of love from the one to whom you gave yourself.

From a sermon after the Liturgy in Epiphany Cathedral, Tomsk
22 September 2013


The Best Preaching of the Gospel is the Witness of Your Life

The best preaching of the Gospel is the witness of your life; a righteous, devout, god-fearing, and fervent life filled with active love for Christ and your neighbours. Whilst “the windy and protracted speech of professors often remains without effect”, the good works of love speak louder than the prettiest words, they awaken in people a spark of trust, arousing a desire to emulate and follow such a person (see: St Gregory of Nyssa. Homily on His Ordination). The Apostles lived and witnessed to Christ in a pagan environment; they fought idolatry, superstition, and immorality. Undoubtedly, the reality of contemporary life appears outwardly different from that existent in the Apostolic Age. However, the inner content of people’s lives today differ little from the sentiments that filled human hearts and minds as they listened to the Apostles’ preaching; in many instances, from the point of view of salvation, modern life is even more dangerous than that of the ancient pagan society.

From a sermon given at the bestowal of the episcopal staff to Bishop Germogen Sery of Michurinsk and Morshansk in the Moscow Church of St Nicholas in Pyzhy, Moscow
27 September 2013


The Cross Encompasses All Life

The Cross is at the centre of our convictions, the centre of our Christian worldview, but it should also be in the focus of our perception of the world. To experience it personally… which means placing sorrow in the centre of our lives… is very difficult. At that moment, few remember the Cross of Christ, because their own cross eclipses everything; it becomes a broad as all life. Everything else remains on the periphery, whilst their suffering is at the centre. Often, the carrying of our cross brings perplexity, murmuring against God, and, often, even anger, the ruin of our relationship to our neighbour, and can even lead to the loss of faith! So that we might more easily bear our cross, we must understand one truth very clearly… that God desired to save the world through the Cross.

We should have the faith to accept all that the Lord teaches us, precisely because our salvation doesn’t come from human strength, but from total human helplessness. After all, salvation doesn’t come from men, but from God. Christianity is a great force, capable of transforming human society and mankind, because it isn’t a human power, but the power of God. We must accept, without further foolishness, in simplicity of heart, what He sent to us, responding to Him and His ideas with our whole hearts. We should strive to implement what the Lord called us to do, and to follow the path that He walked. We know that this is the path of victory, the way of resurrection.

From a sermon after an episcopal consecration and Liturgy in the Church of St Nicholas in Pyzhi, Moscow
27 September 2013

4 October 2013





Fire at St Nick’s in the City… No Damage to Upstairs Church… All Damage in Basement Areas

img_0007. st nicholas new york ny. orthodox. russian.


Editor’s Note:

I checked this out with sources in town and they told me that there wasn’t any damage to the upper floors. However, there’s going to be some kafuffle because of the repairs and cleanup. So far, there’s no change in services. Keep tuned…



A fire erupted at a century-old Russian Orthodox church early Friday morning. Flames broke out in the basement of St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, 15 E 97th Street {three loud farts from Fifth Ave near the Guggenheim in the posh Upper East Side nabe: editor}, about 00.15 EDT, the FDNY said. The blaze roared for two hours before approximately 100 firefighters brought it under control about 02.00 EDT. Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries, including one for smoke inhalation. The cathedral was built in 1901 to accommodate an influx of Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe.

4 October 2013

DNAinfo New York


5 October 2013. More Shit that You Couldn’t Think Up in a Lifetime of Trying… Crackers Oligarch Wants Repin Painting Taken Down… Culture Minister Sez “No Way, No How”

Ilya Repin. Tsar Ivan Grozny Killing His Son on 15 November 1581. 1873

Tsar Ivan Grozny Killing His Son on 15 November 1581

Ilya Repin



Editor’s Note:

If this isn’t proof that Christ wasn’t fooling when he said, “Not all who say Lord, Lord, are going to gain the Kingdom of Heaven”, nothing is. Yes, Virginia, there are nutters amongst us… and some of them wear riassas. Make no mistake on it, some crank priest backed up this crackpot. There’s always been crook clergy, always will be. That’s why we have to keep a vigilant eye out and that’s why clergy don’t get automatic “respect”. They earn it like everyone else does. As I said, this nutter would’ve gone nowhere if some fool priest hadn’t egged him on. Kishkovsky and Potapov have plenty of company in the Rodina, sad to relate. Keep your wits about you… there be dragons hidden out there…

The Church isn’t what the nutters paint it out to be… if it was, I wouldn’t be part of it, and that’s that. You don’t spread Christ’s love with a cudgel… that’s a contradiction in terms. This guy has to be muzzled for the greater good of the Church, State, and People. He’s built a chapel in honour of the “Holy Martyr Tsar Ivan Grozny“… sheesh, what more do you need?



Vasili Boiko-Veliky, a Kremlin-linked dairy magnate and radical Orthodox Christian fanatic, demanded the removal from one of Russia’s main art galleries of a painting of Ivan Grozny that he said is a smear on the nation’s reputation. Boiko-Veliky’s lengthy diatribe to the authorities, describes Ilya Repin’s work Ivan Grozny Killing His Son as “slanderous” and “unpatriotic”. Mainstream accounts of Russian history have it that, in fact, the notoriously ruthless 16th century monarch did kill his son in a fit of intemperate rage, but Boiko-Veliky insisted that the tsar was in fact an upstanding and significant historical figure.

Tretyakov Gallery Director Irina Lebedeva told RIA-Novosti that the painting would continue to be on exhibit, but that Boiko-Veliky’s diatribe marked a new turn in a continuing revisionist trend that’s appalled many professional historians. Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, one of the people to whom the appeal was addressed, hadn’t commented as of Thursday, but he may prove a sympathetic ear. Medinsky, a former public relations manager, published a series of books aimed at debunking alleged myths about Russia. He wrote that such myths included that serfs received ill-treatment in tsarist times and that Russians have a penchant for heavy drinking. Rightwing activism is on the rise in Russia, with Christian activists protesting against a number of art projects. Targets included modern art exhibits by prominent museum curator Marat Gelman in Krasnodar and Novosibirsk in early 2012, and a show of works by British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman at the Hermitage in December.

Many experts consider Repin’s painting, which depicts the tsar in a state of appalled terror as he cradles his dying son in his arms, a landmark of Russian realist art, and features in most textbooks on Russian history, which traditionally depicted Ivan Grozny as a cruel tyrant. Commonly, Ivan Grozny receives praise for strengthening the central government, but scholars also recognise that he did this largely by massacring his foes.

Boiko-Veliky, 54, gained media notoriety by combining his business pursuits with hardline Christian fanaticism. In 2010, he ordered all employees in relationships to have church weddings or face dismissal. He also posted a reward of 50,000 roubles (1,550 USD. 1,600 CAD. 1,650 AUD. 1,150 Euros. 970 UK Pounds) for anyone who revealed the identities of members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who performed an anti-Kremlin song at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow in 2012. Five band members participated in the performance, but so far, only three have been identified. In 2007, Finans business weekly estimated Boiko-Veliky’s fortune at 3.5 billion roubles (108.8 million USD. 112 million CAD. 115.3 million AUD. 80.2 million Euros. 68 million UK Pounds). Ruzskoye Moloko company, part of his Your Own Financial Caretaker holding, supplies dairy products to the presidential administration. In 2010, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and then-President Dmitri Medvedev… the two have since switched roles… sampled the company’s milk at an agricultural fair. Still, the tycoon hasn’t always managed to stay on the right side of the law. In Soviet times, the Komsomol expelled Boiko-Veliky for his religious beliefs, and he spent 20 months in custody in 2007-2008, pending investigations over a suspect land deal. At present, he’s free on bail, and the case is still in the courts.


On Saturday, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said that he considers the demand of an Orthodox Christian fanatic to remove a painting of Tsar Ivan Grozny from one of Russia’s main art galleries as a “joke”. Earlier this week, Vasili Boiko-Veliky, a Kremlin-linked dairy magnate known for eccentric Orthodox views, issued a lengthy diatribe describing Ilya Repin’s work widely-known as Ivan Grozny Killing His Son as “slanderous” and “unpatriotic”. He insisted that it’s a smear on the nation’s reputation and urged the culture minister, amongst others, to remove the painting from Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. Medinsky waited until Saturday to react, saying that he considered “such statements with irony” and doesn’t plan to follow them. On a Saturday news show on the Rossiya telly, he said, “I dare to hope that those who signed that letter were making a joke. However, to speak frankly, there are bad jokes”.

Mainstream accounts of Russian history have it that, in fact, the notoriously ruthless 16th century monarch did kill his son in a fit of intemperate rage, but Boiko-Veliky insisted the tsar was in fact an upstanding and landmark historical figure. In his comments, Medinsky noted that this was a case where we should view historic facts and an artistic work separately. He added that, most likely, Tsar Ivan didn’t kill his son, but there’s no evidence to prove it. The original title of Repin’s painting was Ivan Grozny and his Son, Ivan, which doesn’t implicate anyone with the killing, but Russians more commonly call the canvas Ivan Grozny Killing His Son. Most experts consider the artwork a landmark of Russian realist art and it features in most textbooks on Russian history, which traditionally depicted Ivan Grozny as a cruel tyrant. Boiko-Veliky, 54, gained media exposure by combining his business pursuits with hardline Christian fanaticism. In 2010, he ordered all employees living in relationships to have church weddings or face dismissal.

3/5 October 2013




5 October 2013. You Can’t Make Up Shit Like This… Orthodoxy as Belligerence?



Editor’s Foreword:

I can’t get over the obsession that some in the Catholic blogosphere have with Rod Dreher. Sir Roddie isn’t important… he has NO following in Orthodoxy, none at all (he IS part of that loud bootless bunch around Freddie M-G, Mattingly, and Reardon… but they’re known quantities and nudniks amongst real Orthodox). Roddie doesn’t reflect real Orthodox or real Orthodoxy at all. By the way, he’s established a “mission” that’s really a “personality parish”, but more on that later. Firstly, read this… do take a drink and hold your nose, but do read it all… it’s a key to how the zapadniki think of us due to the distortions spread by konvertsy like Dreher.



Rod Dreher is famously orthodox. He’s also enthusiastic about why that’s not going to change anytime soon, at least in the direction of Catholicism. Dreher’s latest for Time cites lots of good evidence against the church of “God is love”. From his catechesis at a university parish to the next 13 years of hanging on through “therapeutic” and “saccharine” homilies, Dreher’s experience of (what he terms) American Catholicism was par for the course. His analysis of what went wrong… that this was the church of “Christ without the Cross”… is also spot on. Therefore, in the wake of the major sex abuse crisis a decade ago, and feeling that “American Catholicism was not pushing back against the hostile age at all”, Dreher “finally broke”. It’s hard to point a finger. Orthodoxy is, after all, a beautiful tradition. It calls to mind very acutely the necessity of constant conversion… the fact that we must align our everyday lives with the sacred mysteries of the Incarnation. Orthodoxy is a paradigm of piety and, as far as I can tell from my trasteverian* post, the bane of platitudes. For a thoughtful person… especially, one seeking refuge… it’s an easy sell.

* “Beyond the Tiber”, “plebeian”… one can’t tell what the author means without further context. It sounds like a typical pseudo-intellectual trying to demonstrate their “superiority” over the great unwashed. If the author wanted to say “my post on banality”, that would be much clearer, but that would mean that the hoi polloi could grasp the meaning. Oh, the humanity!


Thus, its Dreher’s thumb-to-nose sign-off that makes me wonder just what part of Orthodoxy I’ve failed to appreciate. In professing to “admire” and “understand” Pope Francisco’s message of mercy, Dreher predicts that it may be the ultimate undoing of important doctrinal reform, which characterised the previous two papacies. However, far from shaking him, the author reminds us that his involvement with the church of “God is love”… with American Catholicism… is history: “[T]hat’s no longer my problem”. I’m a big fan of the Eastern (and especially Russian) tell-it-like-it-is mentality. Yet, I doubt that Dreher’s doing justice here in two regards… firstly, by failing to see (or at least to acknowledge) the profound interconnectedness of orthodox piety with universal ecclesial wellbeing; and secondly, by continuing to prop up as some sort of hypostasis the concept of “American Catholicism”… that’s to say, the small-C church of “God is love”. However, it isn’t best to offer a response to Dreher’s snub as a syllogism. Moreover, I don’t intend to give one now. The splendour of orthodoxy… in the broader sense… is that it’s most compelling when left unspoken. It should strike anyone who professes faith in Christ that a crisis of belief for all but a handful is incompatible with denying the “problem” of evangelisation. It should also be at least notionally distinct, to one as intellectually and culturally tuned as Dreher {now, that’s a whopper if I’ve heard one: editor}, that the church of “God is love” is not the Church of “God is love.” In a word, that “American Catholicism” is fundamentally different from Catholicism, insofar as the latter is de facto coextensive with the universe, and not with any particular nation or people.

I, like many other Catholics, esteem Orthodoxy for its beauty. At times, this includes a certain bellicose approach… not so much ad extra but ad intra, directed toward the conversion of heart that occurs through the mundane, the familiar; all the beautiful things Dreher loves, and for good reason. On the other hand, I’m left unimpressed when one uses Orthodoxy as a vehicle of belligerence… hostility… aimed at perpetuating a rift that, as Christians, none of us should wish to settle for. Dreher says, “There is, of course, no such thing as the perfect church”. On this point, I disagree with him profoundly. While individual Christians are, even collectively, imperfect and sinful, the community of believers united by the Spirit is, amongst other things, holy. If we limit ourselves to mean by “church” simply a local expression of faith, then Dreher’s claim holds water. Then, such a church is hardly the sort worth living and dying for. One can easily make it a means to an end… an instrument of war… rather than an end itself. If the true Church is the Body of Christ, how then could it turn out to be anything less than perfect? Moreover, how could it end up as anything more than the simple reality that “God is love”?

30 September 2013

Andrew Haines

Ethika Politika


Editor’s Afterword:

Typical ultramontane claptrap… using Dreher as a convenient straw man. I tried leaving a comment on this post, but it didn’t show. Then, I laughed and realised that the commboxes there are nothing but an echo-chamber where ultramontane Catholics get together to either congratulate each other or to dispute favourite hobby horses. I shouldn’t have wasted my time, but I did. They all kiss the pope’s arse at high noon; they all worship papal infallibility and papal supremacy. It’s why we won’t have union with the papists… they’d have to give up their distinctive heresies, and they won’t. The only course for decent people is to “send us letters of friendship only”… now, that’s what the “Church of Love” would do… and that Church ISN’T headquartered at the Vatican

Dreher? Why waste your time on inconsequential nonentities? He’s busy playing “church” with his make-believe “mission”, in any case. God willing, it’ll keep him busy so that he won’t write further shitty articles like the one in Time. After all, Dreher thought highly of Dmitri Royster… that gives you the measure of his judgement (we all know what Iriney Bekish thought of Mr Royster… ‘nuff said).


Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.