Voices from Russia

Monday, 12 January 2015

12 January 2015. The Russian Holiday Season is Still Goin’ Strong!

00 Sergei Yolkin. Holiday Week, Work Year... 2013


Today, Monday 12 January, will be the first day back to work for most Russians after the New Year Holiday Break. Therefore, if you read anything in the Western Corporate Media about supposed rules taking effect in Russia… well, there was no one in the offices to put them into effect! What can you say of people so dense and idiotic that they didn’t know that all of Russia was on holiday and that no one was in any office processing ANY applications for ANYTHING? As you well know, it takes awhile to get back up to speed… so, take some reports with a BLOCK of salt.

Even though people are going back to work, the holiday season isn’t over yet. It starts with St Nicholas Day on 19 December and it ends with Theophany on 19 January. Mind you, in Old Russian peasant culture, the holidays began with the three feastdays of Ss Barbara, Sava, and Nicholas… 4-5 December OS, 17-19 December on the Gregorian calendar. This ushered in the holidays, with Christmas on 25 December OS, New Year on 1 January OS, and Epiphany on 6 January OS (the Svyatki, or “Holy Days” are the period between Christmas and Epiphany, party time after fasting time)… a bit longer than the contemporary celebration. Some country areas still begin with Vavarin Dyen… but not many. Today, some even keep “Old New Year” on 14 January, but these are people who don’t keep the secular celebration on 1 January.

So… the holidays in Russia are going to continue for another week (but folks will be going back to work today)… if you will, pass me the selyodka pod shuboi… I’ll have seconds, if you please…



Thursday, 8 January 2015

Orthodox Christians Celebrate Christmas in Saint Clair PA

russian orthodox bellringers


On Wednesday, it was a white Christmas for those who celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ at St Michael the Archangel Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Saint Clair PA. The snow that fell on Christmas Eve provided a beautiful scene for the actual holy day. Families and individuals came to the church in the morning with the temperature at about 15 degrees and snow blowing from roofs and along streets. About 70 people who attended the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom on Orthodox Christmas; they wouldn’t have missed it for cold weather or snow to be part of celebrating the birthday of Jesus. Whilst Christmas is 25 December according to the Gregorian calendar, St Michael parish, which follows the Julian calendar, celebrates the holy day on 7 January. The church is part of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA.

One could hear “Merry Christmas” from time to time, but many people gave the traditional Orthodox greeting of “Christ is born!” or “Christos Razhdayetsya!”, with a joyful response of “Glorify Him!” or “Slavite Yego!” Members of the St Michael Choir led by dirigent Barbara Verbitsky sang hymns in English and Rusin before the Divine Liturgy. The choir also chanted many of the responses throughout the liturgy, which they sung “a cappella”, without musical instruments. Fr Jeff L Zias, pastor, celebrated the Divine Liturgy. At the start of the liturgy, Zias incensed the ikonostas, or icon screen, then, walked down the centre aisle, incensing the congregation. At the back of the nave, he incensed the icons of Christ Pankrator, Mary the Godbearer, and St Michael the Archangel, the patron of the parish.

According to Orthodox teaching, the birth of Jesus is of tremendous importance to eternal salvation, because through his birth, God gave us the food of life eternal, which is his body and blood under the forms of bread and wine in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. They give very little importance to the exchange of gifts or to any commercial thought. Orthodox Christians rejoice on Christmas Day because Christ is in their midst, a newborn child with outstretched arms begs for his love, and he returns this love in his God, his neighbour, his family, and to his country.

After the Epistle reading from the Epistle of St Paul to the Galatians 4.4-7 and the Gospel reading from Matthew 2.1-12, Fr Jeff gave a sermon, which was the Archpastoral Letter for the Nativity by Bishop Gregory of Nyssa, Primate of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA.

“Our Lord Jesus Christ was incarnated from the Virgin Mary for us humans and for our salvation. This salvation is boundless and is offered to us on a daily basis. As we continue to face difficult times and circumstances in the whole world and in our personal lives, let us embrace with our whole hearts the happiness that the Lord offers us at this special Nativity season. Let us love Him as our Saviour and let us love our neighbours as our brothers and sisters. With Jesus Christ in our hearts, the difficulties and troubles, no matter how great, do not have the power to disappoint us because He fills us overwhelming with joy. When we are tested by temptations and encounter sadness in our lives, let us remember that these trials merely make us stronger and more faithful. Let us always remember that God never abandons us. Today, God is revealed to us as a small child in the manger. This child may look weak and fragile, but it has enough love to cure each and every one of us of all our ills. Let us invite this child into our lives in order to transform our entire existence. May all of us, priests, panis, deacons, subdeacons, readers, parish officers, parishioners, friends and supporters of the God-protected American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, experience the joy and wonders of the shepherds and the awe and respect of the three wise men at the arrival of the Messiah, our new born King. Christ is Born! Glorify Him!”

8 January 2915

John E Usalis

Pottsville (PA) Republican Herald


Monday, 5 January 2015

Holiday Celebrations for Churches Using the Traditional Orthodox Calendar

st john russian orthodox church mayfield pa


When Joanne Lutz was a little girl, she celebrated Christmas with her next-door Polish Catholic grandmother, and nearly two weeks later, again with her Russian Orthodox grandmother. She said, “I had two Christmases from the time I was born”. Now 67, the Scott Township woman attended Sunday services at St John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield PA with her daughter and pigtailed toddler granddaughter. Like her Russian “baba”, she’ll celebrate Christmas with her family 13 days after 25 December… this Wednesday, 7 January.

The Russian Orthodox Church adheres to the older Julian Calendar, as opposed to the newer Gregorian Calendar, which most of the western world follows. Introduced by the Roman Empire during the reign of Julius Caesar, the Gregorian Calendar mostly replaced it in the 16th century Gregorian calendar due to its perceived imperfections, leading to the 13-day difference. Therefore, the service at St John’s on Sunday was a pre-Christmas service… a celebration of the direct earthly ancestors of Jesus Christ in preparation for his birth… rather than a post-Christmas one. The bishop of the diocese, Nicholas of Manhattan, oversaw the Sunday service, called a liturgy, bringing with him an ancient icon cut out of a tree in Russia in the 13th century. The bishop told the congregation that believers took away the wooden icon, which has the faces of the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus and others on it, appeared, from Russia after the revolution in 1920.

In a phone interview earlier in the week, Fr John Sorochka, the pastor of St John’s, explained that members of the Russian Orthodox Church prepare for Christmas Day on 7 January with a 40-day fast. On the night of Christmas Eve, the final day of the fast, the people celebrate with a Lenten meal of 12 meat-and-dairy-less dishes, to represent Jesus’s disciples. He also told us that people often place handfuls of hay under the table to represent the poverty Jesus was born into.

Straw plays an important part of tradition and celebration of Christmas at St George Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Taylor PA as well. Kyra Leasure, the daughter of the church’s pastor and a caroller herself, told us that on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, members of the church, which also follows the traditional calendar, but unlike the Russian Church falls under the Greek Orthodox Church, go carolling. Dressed in costumes to represent the shepherds who witnessed Jesus’s birth and wearing baggy pants stuffed with straw, the faux shepherds visit homes of other church parishioners. Once there, they sing carols in the ancient Slavonic language, act out the nativity and leave a bit of the metaphorical hay.

Fr John told us that other area Eastern Orthodox parishes that celebrate on the Julian Calendar include St Basil in Simpson PA, St Stephen in Old Forge PA, Ss Peter and Paul in Scranton PA, and St Mary in Dickson City PA. The North Pocono Cultural Society will celebrate Russian Christmas on Wednesday in Moscow PA with its fourth annual art and cultural event. Participating businesses on Main, Van Brunt, and Church Streets will feature locally made art, jewellery, and ethnic food from 16.00 to 18.00.

5 January 2015

Peter Cameron

Scranton (PA) Times-Tribune


Saturday, 29 March 2014

“It’s Symbolic that this Historic Event coincided with the Return of the Crimea to Russia”: Orthodox Church of Poland SHITCANS Catholic Calendar

00 put it in the trash. 29.03.14


On 18 March, the website Drevo reported that the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in Poland, after 90 years, returned to the sacred traditional Orthodox Julian calendar. Given the fact that most of the parishes of the Polish Church (96 percent) celebrate Christmas on the traditional calendar, and at the believers’ request, the Holy Synod invalidated its decision of 12 April 1924 introducing the Catholic calendar for fixed feasts, deciding to return to the Julian calendar starting from 15 June 2014 (Week of All Saints). Parishes can use the Catholic calendar only in cases of strict necessary. This is the first case where a canonical Local Orthodox Church officially revoked the Catholic calendar, returning formally to the Julian calendar.  The editors of Holy Fire commented on this event, “In view of this positive precedent, it’d be most reasonable and beneficial for universal Orthodoxy at the upcoming 2016 all-Orthodox Sobor if the Moscow Patriarchate, as the largest Local Church, would call all those Orthodox following the Catholic calendar to return to the Julian calendar, so that we have no division in prayer”.

Commentary from Deacon Vladimir Vasilik (Kandidat of Philological Science, instructor at the Faculty of History St Petersburg State University (SPBGU)):

It’s symbolic that this historic event coincided with the return of the Crimea to Russia. I experienced it, as I was present as this event entered history at the meeting at the Great Kremlin Palace. I can say that this event had great grace behind it. It was the feastday of St Luka Voino-Yasenetsky the Confessor. I’d say that St Luka prays not only for Russia, but also for the entire Orthodox world. His prayers came true… that’s a wonderful event for our Polish brothers in Christ, which is welcome. With this step, the Polish Church showed its spiritual character, despite all the difficulties of being in a heterodox country; it witnessed its loyalty to Orthodoxy and to the sacred Julian calendar. The Polish Church witnessed its deep connection with Russia, with Russian Orthodoxy, especially, as many of its believers consider themselves a part of the Russian world. It helps to restore all-Slavic unity, as Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Serbs all use the traditional calendar. The Church of Bulgaria has the same intention. This is a sign of all-Slavic accord.

Of course, at any future all-Orthodox Sobor, the MP should invite all other churches to go back to the traditional calendar, in order for us to have unity in all things, including unanimity about our feastdays. That liquidation of our unity was a sad legacy of the questionable Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis, who hobnobbed with Renovationists, promoted Masonic projects, engaged in poaching on the canonical territory of the MP, and tore away the Polish and Finnish Churches. He left the Catholic calendar as a legacy; it’s become a cause of disagreement. I hope that we can eliminate this sad legacy eventually.

28 March 2014

Russkaya Narodnaya Liniya



There’s NOTHING on this on oca.org… one wonders why. I wonder what the loquacious Michał Kalina thinks about this! His ship sinks, and no one mourns it. THIS could torpedo the whole “all-Orthodox Sobor”… and the Centre knows it! It could lead to TWO “all-Orthodox Sobors”… one at the Phanar, one at Novy Ierusalime, after the common meeting dissolves in acrimonious disagreement. The Phanar won’t budge on the Catholic calendar, not with a papist-trained and Western-subservient First Hierarch. The Centre won’t budge on the traditional calendar, not with this event in hand. Yes… there’d be TWO Sobors… there’s a chance of a rupture in communion as well (I’m not wishing for such… I’m reporting what I’m seeing).

What does this portend for the OCA, seeing that it’s an effectual dependent metropolia of the MP? We’ll have to see, but my thought is that the body would split… with some going to the EP to preserve the Catholic calendar, and others cleaving to Moscow and traditional Orthodoxy. It does bid fair to be INTERESTING.


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