Voices from Russia

Sunday, 19 August 2012

19 August 2012. Today was Apple Spas… Did You Eat Your Apple Today?


In Russia, the Transfiguration is also known as Яблочний спас (Yablochny Spas: Apple Spas… Our Lord’s Apple Day). Nicky and I had our apple (a Golden Delicious) as we took a little motor today. Did you have yours? If not… for shame!



Friday, 19 August 2011

“Contemporary Mankind Needs Transfiguration No Less than the Apostles on Mount Tabor Did”: Patriarch Kirill


On Friday, the Feast of the Transfiguration, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias wished that people would find a sense of God’s presence in their lives. “To believe, you don’t need prodigious miracles; all you need is to see God in the world around you”, the Patriarch said after serving Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. In his view, if a person needs to see great miracles to believe, they’ll have a smaller chance of seeing God’s real miracles. “If their mother were to rise from the grave, they wouldn’t really believe in it… even if they fancied themselves believers. God doesn’t stun us with wonders that would compel us to believe in Him. If God were to use miracles in such a way, He’d deprive us of our freedom of choice”, Vladyki Kirill said.

He thinks that contemporary mankind no longer sees God in the world around them because “modern godless civilisation denies people the opportunity to see God, it conjures up an imaginary vision of human strength and supremacy. How many people are unbelievers because everything in their surrounding milieu tells them that there’s no God? Everywhere that modern man looks, he sees mankind’s works. We marvel at what the human mind’s produced, the inventions of our technological development astound us… all of our wonder, all of the things that strike our mind today are due to human activity “, His Holiness stated.

Meanwhile, he pointed up, the feast of Transfiguration of Our Lord teaches us, “The eternal and incomprehensible God is ever-present among us, even though our human limitations mean that we can’t always apprehend that. The Lord gave a vision of His immanence on Mount Tabor. The Transfiguration of the Saviour was not by chance; He revealed His divine nature to His disciples to orient them in anticipation of His Passion, to show them that He was the Son of God. This was so that they would feel that closeness to God themselves”, His Holiness said. He went on to say, “Contemporary mankind needs transfiguration no less than the apostles on Mount Tabor did; God isn’t just something that we dust off once a week, He’s the centre of our lives. If we realise that, we come to terms with the great miracle of the Transfiguration. Then, we won’t need flamboyant miracles… we’ll see God in every facet of our lives, in everything that we do. Moreover, we’ll see God’s presence in history, which means that we’ll understand the signs of historical events; we’ll not have to rely on history as modern commentators relate it. These people all offer us clashing interpretations, based on their individual fancies and political ideology, to try to explain historical events”.


According to tradition, on 19 August, the Feast of the Transfiguration, popularly known as Apple Spas {Yablochny Spas is literally “untranslatable”, being “Apple-ly Saviour”; the closest we can come is “Apple Day of the Saviour”: editor}, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias blessed the fruits of the new harvest. On Friday morning, the blessing of fruit brought by the faithful occurred at Christ the Savior Cathedral, after Patriarch Kirill served liturgy for the feastday of the Transfiguration. As the official MP website noted, today was the 15th anniversary of the lower church at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, dedicated to the feast of the Transfiguration.

The feastday of the Transfiguration commemorates when Christ took three of His disciples, John, James, and Peter, to Mount Tabor, and was transfigured before them… His face shone like the sun, and clothes became as white as snow. In this action, forty days before His crucifixion, Christ revealed His glory to His apostles, so that they wouldn’t despair when they saw His Passion on the cross. The Gospel text makes it clear that the Saviour was transfigured before his disciples in February, forty days before Easter, but the church moved this celebration to August so that it wouldn’t fall during the time of the Great Lent. Tradition places the venue of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor in Galilee in northern Israel. In the Fourth Century AD, Empress Helena built a church there in honour of the Transfiguration, and introduced the custom of celebrating this event. The custom of blessing the first-fruits of the harvest on this day dates back to the Eighth Century AD. The Church aligned this with the feastday of the Transfiguration because the first stage of the harvest in the New Roman world was coming in, the most important of which were wheat and grapes, as Christians used them for the Eucharist. In Russia, in August, the grapes aren’t ripe in all places; therefore, apples replaced them, hence, the popular name for this holiday in Russian, Яблочный Спас (Yablochny Spas: “Apple Spas”).

19 August 2011




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