Voices from Russia

Saturday, 29 April 2017

29 April 2017. Is Your Parish Still Celebrating? It Should Be…

00 russia dancers krasnogorsk raion moscow oblast 290417

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The above image is of the Красная горка (Krasnaya Gorka: Red Hill) celebration in Dmitrov (Krasnogorsk Raion, Moscow Oblast). Where better to celebrate “Red Hill” than in “Red Hill” Raion? Red Hill is the popular name for Thomas Sunday and for the following week. Obviously, it’s a “baptism” of pre-Christian pagan festivities marking the beginning of spring, people hold dances and fairs, organise bonfires and celebrations, and often hold marriages at this time (it’s thought particularly auspicious). People make another round of Easter Eggs and Cakes and keep the party spirit alive. By the way… the Igumen of the local Monastery of St Dmitri Salunsky blessed this festival…

It’s party hearty until Pentecost… keep it alive until then…

BMD

29 April 2017. We Must Unburden Each Other

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The Russian Ban Against the JWs is a Victory for Common Sense. The West Should Take Note

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Recently, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation defined the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) as an extremist organisation and ruled its operations illegal. The Ministry of Justice ordered all Kingdom Halls closed and the church’s property turned over to the state. The resolution raised widespread discussion and one can see that the openly anti-Russian Western mainstream media used this opportunity to create an image of Russia as an enemy of freedom. However, one shouldn’t use “religious freedom” as an excuse to tolerate activities that violate the safety of a state and its people.

At first glance, from the point of view of freedom of religion, the ruling of the Supreme Court might seem totalitarian, but upon closer inspection of the JW’s activities, it becomes apparent that the Supreme Court had ample reason to believe this group violated Russian law. Discussion on activities carried out under the guise of “freedom of religion” is very timely. We see both moderate and extremist factions and sects in all religions. The “Muslim-invasion” in Europe over the past years raised justified concerns over the danger extremist Islam poses for the indigenous Western population; meanwhile, Christian supranational religious sects continued to strengthen. Should we build Sunni grand mosques in Europe? Should the West also restrict the activities of Mormons, Evangelicals, and JWs? What about the Freemasons and other such groups?

How do we define extremist religious denominations and what kind of actions should we take to restrict activities dangerous to the public interest? As Western countries contemplate threats from Islamists, Wahhabis, and Salafists, Russia is also aware of the threats posed by Western religious groups to its citizens. The Supreme Court stated that the JWs systematically and through central governance infringed on human rights and trampled the freedoms of its members. The sect restricts families, bans many types of education, and forbids many medical treatments. Therefore, in principle, the decision protects the rights and freedoms of Russians, and on the other hand, punishes the JWs for breaking the laws governing church activities. The state gave warning and notification to the JWs demanding that they reform, but without results. Therefore, do as the Romans do, or get out of Rome. Primarily, Russia wants to protect the necessities of life for its citizens. If a religious group creates a threat to people’s livelihood, and if it demonstrably threatens a citizen’s life, their rights, and their freedoms, shouldn’t the state ban this kind of activity and convict them of breaking laws governing church activities? On the other hand, should we in the name of religious freedom tolerate anything from religious sects and churches, even violence and terrorism?

Churches as a National Threat

Here in the war-torn Donbass, laws governing religious groups led to the ban of several religious denominations and the closure of their churches in the DNR and LNR. It’s clear that rulings on the closure of activities based on national security might seem arbitrary restrictions of freedom, but using churches and religions to harm the public interest is part of the toolkit of political influence. In mass psychology, in informational and behavioural influence, harnessing religious sects to advance political ends is common, regardless of the religious group. For example, often, hard-line elements use churches as covers, and hostile factions use “harmless” meeting and storage locations to carry out terror and sabotage. We must remember that churches are often political organisations and often very strong operators regionally; their economic, educational, and political influence on a community might be harmful to public interest and security. When countering the spread of harmful extremism, one must understand specific regional viewpoints, the interest of the national majority, and the political situation when targeting religions and their activities. What’s dangerous for some might be beneficial for others, depending on the interests sought after with the activities under examination.

The JWs are an American Religious Group

A nine-person governing body in New York is responsible for the JW’s decisions; they’re responsible for coordinating the operations and actions of the group. In the current situation, allowing any American church organisation to operate in the Russian Federation is a political question, one with multiple geopolitical angles, with national security threats as well. Increasingly, Western influences are in opposition to the interests of the majority of Russians. Russia has a critical and strategic need to protect its national interests against Western organisations that operate against its public interest by promoting the growth of Western influences in Russia. Western NGOs, media, and (presumably) religious groups, like those in the Donbass region, create security threats in their target countries, that is, in states that don’t recognise Western globalist domination (hegemony). So far, although the ruling banning the JW’s operations doesn’t appear to have links to national geopolitical threats, we can view the ban against the JWs as a defensive measure, the same as forbidding operations by Western NGOs.

Religious Freedom and Controlling Extremism

Respecting freedom doesn’t mean tolerating irresponsibility. Religious groups that don’t respect the public interest or national laws and set their own opinion and activities above the secular law are irresponsible and we shouldn’t tolerate them. We need to classify all such activity as extremism. Public interest means the good of the majority, and a minority can’t force its opinions on the majority in the name of democracy. If some religious group infringes the basic rights and freedoms of citizens, it’s a question of breaking the law. Therefore, no religious group should have the right to impose unlawful rules on its members, let alone on all others in the name of its religion. We must monitor activities in churches, prayer rooms, mosques, and other religious locations; we must prosecute all churches operating against the national laws and interest. We must remember that extremism is always a threat to the good of the majority. When we look at the banning of the JW’s activities as a whole, the Russian judicial system’s actions in restricting extremist church activities appears in a new light and shows us a strong communal moral leadership. The West should take heed of this. They have to consider their own ever-growing threats. Only by drawing lines does order prevail.

25 April 2017

Janus Putkonen

Russian Insider

http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/russias-jehovahs-witnesses-ban-victory-common-sense-west-should-take-note/ri19684

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A I Osipov: “It’s Easier to Conduct a Divine Service or to Defend It Than to Pray Reverently During It”… An Interview with an Old Ritualist Website

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 Ruskaya Vera

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the Sobor held in 1666-67, which imposed oaths on Old Ritualists and made a number of other acts that led to a schism in the Local Orthodox Church in Russia. In 1971, the Church abolished the oaths; however, many other dubious decisions remained intact. For example, that the soul enters the body of a child on the fortieth or eightieth day after conception or that the change in the Eucharist follows the Catholic doctrine or eccentric doctrines that God gave man fingers to fold the letters IC XC. Now, we hear opinions that it’s necessary to abolish all the acts of this Sobor. What do you say about this?

Professor A I Osipov

One may hold different views on any subject. However, I don’t think that someone now told you that we’re going to abandon the “eccentric” decisions of this Sobor. Moreover, on such a basis to talk about abolishing all the acts of this Sobor, of course, is illogical. This is a serious question. I haven’t heard that anyone raised it.

RV

This year marks the centenary of the two Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the subsequent persecution of religion. There are different interpretations of these events, for example, that the Revolution was a punishment for the country’s secularisation. Others say that these events helped to purify the Church, so now it shines without blemish. What’s your view of these events?

Osipov

The Bible is full of warnings that always and everywhere all tragic events happen because of the sins of men, families, and peoples… that everything that happens is a direct consequence of us violating the spiritual laws of life. However, since Christians know Christ’s Laws and Commandments, they’re all the more responsible for this evil and sorrow. In spite of this, God is Love; He’s a doctor, not an executioner. Therefore, suffering isn’t God’s vengeance upon people; rather, I’d call it a therapeutic agent that helps to heal their souls. Of course, this healing and cleansing depend on how a person carries their sorrows. If you look for culprits outside yourself and blame them, you’ll not receive any benefits. If you say as the Wise Thief said:

I received the recompense of my works; I thank Thee, O Lord, have mercy on me!

Then, together with him, you’ll receive relief from your suffering, peace in your soul, and eternal life. However, my impression is that repentance, and so, purification isn’t so common amongst Christians. Therefore, one can’t say that the Church shines without blemish.

RV

Why do we hear, more and more, talk in churches and sermons about how spirituality and the moral state of society is lower than it was in the Soviet era? Why are we increasingly talking about the phenomenon of “burnout in the priesthood” and the frustration amongst ordinary believers and young monastics?

Osipov

Unfortunately, actually, we hear more talk about wonderworking icons, relics, holy sites, miracles, new elders, festive celebrations, and religious services, festivals, and so on. However, we hear less and less about patristic spirituality. Therefore, we have disappointment, burnout, and the decline of the moral state of society. Of course, the strongest negative influence on our people is the now-corrupted and long essentially atheistic Europe.

RV

Is the scope of today’s problem smaller is than the problem of “juvenilia” (младостарчества: mladostarchestva) (also translated as “Young Eldership”: editor) that crippled so many people’s souls in the ’90s and 2000s?

Osipov

This problem has always been with us. It stems directly from False Eldership (лжестарчества: lzhestarchestva), which comes from the self-conceit and pride of ignorant priests and monks who don’t read and don’t know the Holy Fathers. They don’t want to hear what our mentors, the Holy Saints, say:

The so-called “elders” who assume the role of ancient holy elders without having their spiritual gifts bring nothing but spiritually pernicious imposture and sad comedy. Indeed, they’re unaware that most of their resolution and their very thoughts and ideas on obedience (the greatest thing in the monastic life) are false, that most of their thinking, their “wisdom”, and their knowledge exemplify self-delusion and demonic prelest.

RV

Why does the MP accept Roman Catholic clergy in their existing orders, but they demand that Old Ritualist priests must receive reordination? Why do they receive the Renovationist (обновленческой: obnovlencheskoi) clergy the same as they do Roman Catholics, although it’s clear that Old Ritualists and Renovationists are closer to the MP than the Catholics are?

Osipov

We believe that Catholicism and Renovationists historically preserved succession of ordination, but the Old Ritualists violated this line. Therefore, penance is sufficient for Catholic and Renovationist clergy.

RV

There’s evidence that St Isaac the Syrian belonged to the Church of the East (Nestorian), which recognises only two Ecumenical Councils. However, he was always amongst the saints of the Orthodox Church. Is there a contradiction here? How should we deal with this and with similar cases?

Osipov

There’s no doubt that because of the nature of his ascetic works, above all, Ascetical Homilies, he reached the highest degree of spiritual perfection. At the same time, he was little interested in doctrinal questions, and, in any case, some say that wasn’t a Nestorian. His main thrust in dogmatics was that the Creation of the World and Christ’s Sacrifice was the result of the same unchanging Love of God. Therefore, he didn’t share the legalistic view of salvation that Lord Jesus Christ was a ransom (atonement) for sin. There was no “ransom”… deification is the point of the Creation of Mankind and the purpose of Christ’s Podvig*.

  • Podvig: Should NEVER be “Englished”… one of the most powerful words in the Russian language. There are literally no English equivalents strong enough. Podvig has overtones of “epic”, “heroic”, “bravery”, “self-sacrifice”, “victory”, “effort”, and “triumph”. It’s best to leave it as is, and admit that English lacks the necessary material to give meaning to this word.

RV

The Old Ritualists have preserved a treasure of liturgical singing, Znamenny Chant. The point of this chant isn’t to present a gala concert; it’s to help a person to pray during worship. In your opinion, can this form of singing once again become significant in the Russian Orthodox Church?

Osipov

Indeed, such is the purpose of church singing, and Znamenny Chant embodies this. However, the Italianate mode is too far gone in our Church; it’s difficult to hope for a positive change.

RV

How can we best transmit our ways of Russian ecclesiastical tradition and culture to new generations?

Osipov

We must do this through upbringing, education, example, and labour.

RV

You’ve attended services in various Christian denominations. What do you think, compared to all the rest, why only in the Russian Orthodox Church there isn’t a clear order of action in the services (when we stand, when we kneel, when we sit, when we venerate the icons, and so on).

Osipov

Firstly, that’s not the way of it in our Church. The so-called order amongst Catholics, Protestants, and some Orthodox (e.g., the Greeks and others) is due, mainly, to the fact that everyone sits for most of the service; also, western Christians don’t have the same attitude to icons as we do. However, there, too, being there is enough.

RV

Can one fulfil the established and traditional church canons and rituals, but not remember Christ, so that it’s all pointless, so that people go to services all their lives, do everything in order, but it doesn’t make them a Christian?

Osipov

This same problem existed during the time of Jesus Christ when the Jews reduced their religion to fulfilling the ceremonial Law of Moses and the tradition of the elders. After all, such a religion is easier than to struggle with your passions and desires. It’s easier to conduct a divine service or to defend it than to pray reverently during it, such as the Prayer of the Heart (“Jesus Prayer”). Christians forget that you achieve salvation by sincere repentance, not by an annual report on the sins that one has done. Humility consists in purifying the soul, not the merits of podvigs and good deeds before God (such is the Catholic doctrine), and the awareness of one’s sinfulness and inability to eradicate the passions through your own strength. That is, don’t go after enthusiasm and experiences, which put you on the road to prelest. Moreover, if you forget this, you can go to church all your life, but the Lord Himself will reject such “righteousness”.

RV

The Holy Fathers teach that the demons aren’t aware of our thoughts, as God knows our thoughts, but they understand it from our external behaviour. Therefore, they advise us very strongly to listen to our conscience. What do you think… isn’t the main idea here self-control, that the mind stays focused inwardly, and not thinking that the demons know our moods and thoughts?

Osipov

Yes, but do you understand what “the mind stays focused inwardly” means?

RV

What’s your opinion of the phenomenon of “neophyte zealotry”, where recent converts suddenly start to consider themselves “holier than the Pope?”

Osipov

Through ignorance of themselves and of their passions, they have scatterbrained ideals and zeal not according to knowledge… something close to Young Eldership.

RV

How did the Devil get into heaven to tempt Adam and Eve?

Osipov

Most of all, we are talking that our First Parents had the proud (devilish) idea that they were like God. After all, someone who sees themselves as like unto God doesn’t need God.

RV

Each year, we struggle against St Valentine’s Day. Instead, we offer the holyday of Ss Peter and Fevronia as patrons of the family. However, their life is also in doubt… we know nothing about their children, and one can see in Fevronia’s behaviour that their marriage might’ve been due to blackmail. Do you think that St Valentine’s Day is harmful?

Osipov

Modern life is full of “love”, and [St Valentine’s Day] is just another boost and goad in that direction. However, one only needs a spark to blow up a powder keg. Moreover, St Valentine’s Day for many becomes such a spark. I don’t see anything wrong if Peter and Fevronia didn’t have children. In addition, the behaviour of a girl who wanted to marry such a person, and seeing that she liked the prince, it’s understandable, although somewhat culpable. Nevertheless, they really showed such an example of selfless love and fidelity that they’re worthy patrons of the family.

25 April 2017

Ruskaya Vera

http://ruvera.ru/articles/alexey_osipoff

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