Voices from Russia

Saturday, 5 January 2013

It’s Christmas for Russian Orthodox Church

nativity-creche-in-moscow

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Editor’s Note:

This “interview” is softball and a fluff piece (it has First Family fingerprints all over it). I’ll have more to say after you read this treacly missive. After all, I live in Albany NY, and Colonie NY is one of its nearest suburbs (the parish is a 15 minute drive from downtown Albany near Broadway hill on a Sunday, a bit longer on weekdays). Take some of this jabronie’s comments with a heavy dose of scepticism and a BIG block of salt…

BMD

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The Rev Alexis Duncan, priest at Church of Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God Russian Orthodox Church in Colonie NY., was born and raised in Virginia in a Russian Orthodox family. Graduated from Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville NY, in Herkimer County, where he met Anna, his wife of 23 years. They live in Voorheesville NY.

Jennifer Patterson

You recently moved back to the Northeast. What brought you here?

Alexis Duncan

There was a need here at the church. I came from Atlanta in September after serving there as priest for 16 years. I’ve known a lot of the parishioners in Albany for many years since my time at seminary. Fr Wsevolod Drobot at the church on Sand Creek Road was getting older and recently retired as parish priest after 50 years. Of course, it’s been a bit of an adjustment… especially the weather. This is the first snow I’ve seen in some time. My wife and I had to go out and buy snow tires and boots.

Jennifer Patterson

Your church is Russian Orthodox. Does everyone in the congregation have that ethnic background?

Alexis Duncan

Our membership is probably about one-third Russian, those who immigrated before World War II; one-third new immigrants just here from Russia; and one-third American, those who have converted or married into the Orthodox Church. It’s a pretty nice balance of different peoples. There are regularly 100 or more worshipers on Sunday mornings, but we see many more on Easter and Christmas. We’re not a large parish in the sense of megachurches, but for an Orthodox parish, we’re average in size.

Jennifer Patterson

What makes a church Orthodox?

Alexis Duncan

The Orthodox Church is very traditional and has preserved, without deviation, the traditions and doctrines of the early Christian Church established by the apostles. We don’t believe that over time Christian theology or basic worship can change, or that morality changes when society does.

Jennifer Patterson

In keeping with tradition, you celebrate Christmas in January. Why is that?

Alexis Duncan

In the 4th century, the First Ecumenical Council determined to follow the Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar. Most of Europe followed this calendar until the 18th century… our founding fathers were born under it. The Christian Church followed this calendar for a sense of unity. Pope Gregory XIII ordered the calendar to be advanced by 10 days in the 16th century, which became known as the Gregorian calendar. Most Orthodox churches, with the exception of some Greek Orthodox churches, still follow the Julian calendar and our Christmas, or Feast of the Nativity, is celebrated in January. It really is a matter of faith.

Jennifer Patterson

Tell us how you’ll be celebrating the holiday.

Alexis Duncan

Our “old calendar” services are in English and Church Slavonic, the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church. We’ll have a vigil on Sunday evening, our Christmas Eve, in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity on Monday, our Christmas. We’ll have Mass at 09.30. We have 12 great feasts throughout the year, but this service is one of the most major and anticipated.

4 January 2013

Albany (NY) Times-Union

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/It-s-Christmas-for-Russian-Orthodox-Church-4168639.php

Editor’s Afterword:

Liar, liar, pants on fire! Firstly, Rev Duncan doesn’t inform Ms Patterson that there are TWO other priests attached to this dinky establishment, which has always functioned as a podvorie of Jordanville (ROCOR priests have said of the Albany bunch, “They’re rather unique; they have their own ways”, not in a good sense); Drobot was a reliable First Family apparatchik (he was “President of the Presbyteral Senate”, a suitably Ruritanian title for a Grand Fenwickian situation, he lived at Jordanville, some 115 klicks (70 miles) away from the Albany parish). In short, Duncan’s presence was NOT a necessity due to the presence of two other clergymen onsite. Duncan doesn’t even mention them! What a maroon! He didn’t say, “My colleagues in ministry here are Frs X and Y, they’ve been here much longer than I’ve been, and I intend to learn much from them”. That’s what a humble man would’ve said. No… they don’t even rate a mention; they don’t even get sloppy seconds. There’s no pressing pastoral need for this jabronie to be present at all. It smells as if he was sent for to be the chaplain to the Fedoroff clan, who think that they run this parish. Indeed, the location (in wetland not truly suitable for construction, it added unneeded expense to the construction costs) was chosen because it was close to the residence of the Fedoroff clan’s matriarch.

Secondly, he’s not getting 100 people a Sunday at liturgy. His proportions are correct, but he’s wrong in one of the details. There really aren’t any First Wave émigré families or po-nashemu Karpatsky people at this parish… when I attended it (when it was in Schenectady NY), it was mostly post-World II Second Wave DPs and their families; they had amazingly-nutters Far Right politics (many smelt like ROA/KONR Nazi collaborators; they’d say things such as, “Hitler was a friend of the church”). What my sources tell me is that “attendance is double that of 1990s levels”… that was 30 people a Sunday (with three priests usually present!), so, all things being equal, they’re getting 60 people a Sunday now. He’s bloviating, and the reporter just eats it up, as she knows nothing about the parish. In any case, the building isn’t big, it looks bigger than it is, as it’s built on a slab, so, the furnace and other utility items are behind the altar area, not in the basement. Only some 40 percent of the floor area is in the nave, and it’d be a squeeze to fit over a hundred laypeople in it. For less than a hundred people, they have three priests and two deacons on a given Sunday… that’s ludicrous.

In short, this situation is typical First Family smoke n’ mirrors. Drobot was a typical example of that scurvy breed. In 1991, after the August events, he “hid out” and refused to comment on the new situation for a few weeks until he got the new party-line from Jordanville and Vitaly Ustinov. Then, he was gung-ho for the ROCOR parishes in Russia, and ranted, “The communists are still in charge, nothing has changed!” Hmm… this Duncan guy says that he’s from Virginia… there’s a Duncan family tied in with the Rodzianko clan… he might be part of that lot. There’s a LOT more here than what the ignorant TU reporter could see. Nevertheless, she’s blameless; what does she know of Russian Orthodoxy in the USA? All the same, Duncan gave her the Big Green Weenie and the glad hand… and she fell for it. Kids… there are two other priests serving this parish… there’s no need for this guy… unless Jordanville isn’t sure of the parish’s loyalty to it (the New Russians are all probably pro-MP, along with some of the older parishioners, which means that they’re not beholden to Roman Krassovsky and his Jordanville gang).

It’s the usual simmering stew, isn’t it? We’ll have to see what happens after Hilarion Kapral’s death (nothing will change until then for this local candy store)… Jordanville has no real candidate to replace him, and the Centre seems to want Mark Golovkov for the ROCOR white hat. Will Jordanville pull a HOCNA in that event (as one ROCOR priest told me, “They’ve degenerated into a minor Ukrainian skete”)? Time will tell us, no? Remember, always search “for the rest of the story”… you’ll never be bored, trust me.

BMD

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

5 December 2012. A Photo Essay. From the Russian Web… Salisbury Cathedral… “From Darkness to Light”

00a Salisbury Cathedral. From Darkness to Light. 05.12.12

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00b Salisbury Cathedral. From Darkness to Light. 05.12.12

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00c Salisbury Cathedral. From Darkness to Light. 05.12.12

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00d Salisbury Cathedral. From Darkness to Light. 05.12.12

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00e Salisbury Cathedral. From Darkness to Light. 05.12.12

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00f Salisbury Cathedral. From Darkness to Light. 05.12.12

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By tradition, the beginning of the Christmas season in England always opens with a procession with candles in Wiltshire’s Salisbury Cathedral (formally known as the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary). On Saturday night, members of the cathedral choir carry lit candles during the annual procession “From Darkness to Light”. The service in the medieval cathedral begins in total darkness and silence, and, then, in the west wing of the building, the first candle is lit.

BMD

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Western Shock Headlines Misrepresent Patriarch Kirill

Here’s the real deal on His Holiness… he’s NOT a Langley lickspittle like the Blunder, Denisenko, Rusantsov, and Pashkovsky (not to mention Paffhausen, Kishkovsky (père et fille), Reardon, Serge Schmemann, and Potapov)…

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The sensational headlines found in the Western and Scandinavian media caused a Christmas shock. Unfortunately, quite a few Russian news outlets repeated these headlines. Through them, an ordinary reader might suppose that His Holiness Patriarch Kirill [of Moscow and all the Russias] and Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin might even support dollar-funded colour revolutionary leaders. The Western media didn’t write any references to specifics about the Orthodoxy (right mind) and Orthopraxis (right practise) of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In the worst cases, the above-mentioned journalists had never even attended an Orthodox service.

Many greetings and prayers of the Orthodox Christmas services focus on brotherly love and peace in Jesus Christ. According to Vladimir Lossky (1903–58), an influential Eastern Orthodox theologian, the Christian life of prayer and worship is the foundation for dogmatic theology, and dogma helps Christians in their struggles. Orthodox doctrine has its basis in liturgical life, prayer, and in the experience of church members of the presence of God in Christ. Did the journalists understand the speeches of Kirill and Chaplin in the context of the Orthodox understanding and devotion surrounding Christmas?

In his 2012 Christmas message, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill told his flock that hope resides in the birth of Christ, rather than in political power struggles, personal greed, and relativism:

God was born in the flesh in order to reveal His love, to help people to find the fullness of life, to give this to every man who wants to hear His message. That’s why this holiday gives us hope for help from above even in the most difficult circumstances of our lives.

Patriarch Kirill spoke about the serious challenges facing our modern world:

This challenge aims to destroy the moral sense embedded by God in our souls. Today, there are those who’re trying to convince people that man, and only man, is the standard of truth… that everyone has their own truth, and everyone defines what’s good, and what’s evil.

One can easily see that Patriarch Kirill’s guiding people away from greedy enterprises and moral relativism towards a sense of morality and an appreciation of the spiritual dimension of life.

Personal forgiveness and Holy Communion (Eucharist) are at the centre of Orthodox Christmas worship; this applies equally to small children and old people. For many secular people, to see that believers of all ages participate in Holy Communion at Christmas is an impressive experience, for everyone needs confession of sins and forgiveness. Orthodox Christmas is joyous, but that joy isn’t commercial in nature. Patriarch Kirill invited both the protesters and the government to Confession. His Holiness turned to the government, as the Western media made very well-known, but he turned also to the demonstrators, and exhorted them to be renewed, “Be honest with yourselves”.

His Holiness warned, “Social networks manipulate the awareness” of people. In his Christmas homily he said, “It’s important to learn how to recognise the deceits and illusions of Earthly well-being in our destructive addictions, in our greedy strivings, in the temptations of advertisements, in the entertainment industry, and in political propaganda”. The patriarch’s speech about “social networks” echoes Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin’s cautionary words about “social network hamsters”. The clerics express the Church’s love for people, but they’re concerned about manipulation and incitement.

On 8 January 2012, Patriarch Kirill said in the Word of the Pastor that everybody wants “to express his own judgement, not only to present it to others publicly, but also to lead others”. Everyone lives under the powerful influence of the informational media during times of election campaigns and political conflicts. To better orient us, the patriarch referred to the Christmas Tropar {a short hymn encapsulating the theme of a feast or saint: editor} and reminded us that the birth of Christ the Saviour opened a new era. Christ is “a guiding star, a beacon, which helps to pull out of the darkness”. His Holiness prayed that God would grant Russia the will to follow the mind of God. “Then, we could avoid the many mistakes of the past”. The messages [of Patriarch Kirill and Fr Vsevolod] sprung from the Orthodox theology and devotion of Christmas. The Church shouldn’t incite dispute, rather, it should try to steer people towards divine peace, brotherly love, and peaceful unity. His Holiness and Fr Vsevolod want to direct people away from momentary emotional manipulation towards a deeper spiritual orientation. Everyone needs to listen more to each other, instead of each one inventing consistently wilder campaigns against one’s opponents.

14 January 2012

Juha Molari

Russia Today

http://rt.com/news/blogs/juha-molari-blog-finland/western-media-patriarch-kirill/

Saturday, 1 January 2011

A Photo Essay. A Look Back: This was Christmas 2010…

Iraqi Christian refugee in Amman (Jordan) prays in a Catholic church. Fully half of the Christian population resident in Iraq in 1980 have fled to Syria and Jordan, this process was accelerated by the present Republican-engendered war in Iraq. Before the war, 97 percent of the population was Muslim and 3 percent Christian (roughly two-thirds Chaldean Uniate Catholic and one-third Oriental Orthodox… the Protestant groups are derisory). Today… who knows? In Jordan, the population is 92 percent Muslim, 8 percent Christian (split between Catholic, Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox… there are no Protestants to speak of). Jordan is the most tolerant of the Middle Eastern states towards Christianity, but most of its Christians have emigrated (in 1950, the Jordanian population was 48 percent Christian). Bear in mind… if you support Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin, you support the persecution of the Iraqi Christian community, as it’s now mainly a product of the GOP warfare in Iraq.

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Cleaning a statue of Christ in Noida, Uttar Pradesh (India) in preparation for the Christmas holidays. Amongst Christians, who are 2.5 percent of the population, 48 percent are Roman Catholic, 12 percent are Uniate Catholic, 15 percent are Oriental Orthodox, and 25 percent are Protestant (including Pentecostalist Sectarians). Besides this grouping, 81 percent of Indians are Hindu, 13 percent Muslim, and 2 percent are Sikhs.

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A New Year’s/Christmas tree in Kiev. 80 percent of Ukrainians have some sort of connection with Orthodoxy (85 percent in the canonical UOC/MP, 15 percent in illicit schismatical bodies such as the UOC/KP and UAOC, whilst 2 percent are Roman Catholic (mainly in the Polish and Lithuanian minority communities), 8 percent are Uniate Catholics (they’re a majority in Galicia, though), 3 percent are Protestants (a third of these are Pentecostalist Sectarians), 1 percent are Muslim (mainly long-term residents in the Crimea), and 1 percent are Jewish (only a third are observant to one extent or another).

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“Walruses” in Berlin (Germany) taking a Christmas dip in a hole chopped in the ice… rather Russian, eh? In Germany, 31 percent are Catholics, 30 percent in the EKD (Evangelical Lutheran), 5 percent non-Lutheran Protestant, 4 percent Muslim (a quarter of these are German citizens), and a bit under 2 percent Orthodox (mostly migrant workers from Orthodox countries in Eastern/Southern Europe). The remainder of the population (28 percent) is religiously unaffiliated.

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Christmas fireworks in Remedios (Cuba). Officially, 60 percent of the Cuban population is Catholic and 3 percent is Protestant (a third of these being Pentecostalist Sectarians), there are smaller groups as well (including Greek and Russian Orthodox), but most of the remainder are religiously unaffiliated…

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Santa visits a little girl in paediatric hospital in San Salvador (El Salvador). 53 percent of Salvadorians are Catholic, 26 percent are Protestant, a bit under 2 percent are Mormon Sectarians, and 11 percent are religiously unaffiliated according to a survey…

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Christians in a Catholic church in Zababdeh (Palestine). This town has somewhat over 3,000 inhabitants, two-thirds of which are Christians. By law, its mayor must be a confessing Christian…

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Christians in a Catholic church near Kathmandu (Nepal). Less than 1 percent of the Nepalese population are Christians, most of the rest are mainly Hindu (80 percent) in faith, along with Buddhist (10 percent), Muslim (4 percent), and Shamanist (4 percent)  minority communities…

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Christians in the Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Lahore (Pakistan). Christians are only some 1.5 percent of the population, a similar number is Hindu. Over 95 percent of Pakistanis profess Islam. The Christian population is under great persecution here…

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Christians in the Cathedral of Saint Mary in Yangon (Myanmar (Burma)). According to official figures, 89 percent of Burmese are Buddhists, 4 percent are Christian, 4 percent are Muslim, and 1 percent are Hindu. Some sources think the number of non-Buddhists may be up to three times higher, but there are no figures to back up this claim…

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A Nativity Play in the Roman Catholic Church of the Virgin Mary in Łódź (Poland). 89 percent of all Poles are Roman Catholics, making them the predominant religious force in the country. 3 percent are Orthodox, 3 percent are Uniate Catholic, but only 0.5 percent are Protestant. There is a tiny Muslim minority of 0.1 percent, which has lived in peace in Poland for centuries, thoroughly assimilated, and completely a part of Polish society…

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After services at the Catholic Cathedral of Juba in the southern Sudan. This region is majority-animist/Christian (30 percent of the present population), and shall probably split from the Muslim-majority north (70 percent of the current population) in a 9 January 2010 plebiscite. This vote is being held after an armistice after a bloody internal war between Arab Muslim northerners and animist/Christian Negro southerners…

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