None of My Business ?

A few years ago--at a time when I had no idea that the ROCOR was about to move under the canonical administration of Alexey II and the Moscow Patriarchate-- I invited some recent Russian emigres from my ROCOR parish to dinner at my home. We were talking about various things, and the subject of Sergianism and the Moscow Patriarchate eventually came up. I may have mentioned something about the Nuns of Shamordino, whose martyric story in the book Russia's Catacomb Saints (by I.M. Andreyev) had made a profound impression upon me. These Holy Mothers had refused to cooperate with the Bolshevik prison guards at Solovki, on the grounds that their spiritual Father had forbidden them to "cooperate with the regime of the Antichrist." They were left to freeze to death in the snow, but were miraculously protected from the cold overnight. When the guards saw the nuns kneeling in the snow praying, alive and warm, the following morning "great fear went up throughout the camp," and the prison guards were afraid to persecute the nuns after this miracle had occurred-- a truly remarkable story, not unlike the Biblical account of the Three Holy Youths who were saved from the Babylonian fire.

To my great surprise, one of my dinner guests became quite red-faced and angry during this conversation, which had not hitherto seemed antagonistic or particularly heated to me. "You Americans have no business criticizing the Moscow Patriarchate! " she told me. "What do you know about the Moscow Patriarchate or the Church in Russia!?" she asked. She appeared quite upset, and I was truly concerned that I had offended her. There was an awkward silence at the table. I believe that I then said something like, " You make a good point about this, because I am not Russian, and I have never even lived in Russia. What I have heard about the history of Sergianism and the Moscow Patriarchate comes only from books such as Russia's Catacomb Saints."

As I recall, our former American-convert ROCOR priest had once publicly criticized some of our parishioners for refusing to venerate the magnificent icon of the Royal Martyrs in our parish. I was told by someone that this woman was one of those who had refused to venerate the Royal Martyrs, but never observed this directly. I do recall speaking to her once about the book The Last of the Romanovs, by Robert K. Massie. I admired the book's presentation of the remarkable history surrounding the improbable discovery of the hidden remains of the martyred Romanov family near Ekaterinberg, and the DNA testing that had finally confirmed the identity of the Romanov relics (which was based on DNA referencing with the British Royal family, among the Tsar's closest living relatives.) To my surprise, this same woman scoffed at Massie's book, and said something to the effect that the DNA evidence was probably bogus.

What is my point? Firstly, that American converts to the ROCOR, like myself, probably do not really understand the experiences and culture of modern Soviet-era Russians very well. And, secondly, that modern Russians seem to be struggling to come to grips with the convoluted reality of their own bloody history, as the story was told to them by the Soviet authorities. This is not surprising, when one considers that several generations of modern Soviet-era Russians were acculturated and educated in the Soviet Union. I have observed, for example, that some Russians educated in the Soviet Union know almost nothing about America's role in defeating the Nazi regime in World War II. They seem to think of World War II chiefly as a cataclysmic struggle on the "Eastern front" between the triumphant Red Army and the Hitler regime.

I was on a tour of St. Petersburg several years ago, and our guide was a very charming, charismatic native of the city, who had lived through the terrible Nazi seige of Leningrad during World War II. When she spoke of modern Russia, I was quite intrigued by her comments about the effects of perestroika and glasnost on her generation. "After the fall of the Soviet regime," she said, "people were quite shocked to learn the truth about the economic success and wealth of the West. It was truly a shock to discover that all of those years we had not really known the truth about the great wealth of the West, and our own relative poverty." She went on to say that "Many of the Russian men (of her generation) had had tremendous difficulty dealing with the shock" of this reality, and had tended to deal with the changes by drinking more heavily, gambling, etc. In her opinion, the Russian women had been more adaptive to the changes induced by the fall of the Soviet state.

What are the implications for the Church? I often wonder how much of the great piety and Orthodox worldview of Holy Russia has truly survived so many years of Soviet acculturation and persecution of the Church by the Soviet state. No doubt, the Soviet-appointed leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate have colluded in this process to some extent. Have they truly preserved more than the pomp and property of the magnificent Church that was the heart of Holy Russia? I certainly do not know. Some modern Russian authors, like Konstantin Preobrazhensky, have reported that they never really experienced the reality of "Holy Russia" until attending services at old ROCOR parishes in the West, after leaving Russia.

In any case, like all members of the old ROCOR, I pray for the suffering Russian land and its Orthodox people, and can only rejoice to see the grace of the Kursk Icon bestowed once again upon the long-suffering Russian people. As to whether the Kursk Icon-- which once blessed my own home here in America-- should remain in Russia permanently? That is, perhaps, none of my business.

1 comment:

Joanna Higginbotham said...

by Protopresbiter Vassily Boshtanovsky

In one Greek family living within the vicinity of New York City an ikon of the Virgin Mother of God that shed tears was discovered. The ikon was transfered to a Greek Cathedral and mass pilgrimages began towards the weeping ikon of the Virgin Mother of God. Soon following this in the home of another related family a second ikon was revealed, and then also a third. All three weeping ikons are now found in a Greek cathedral. Masses of faithful people came in order to take a look at the newly revealed miracle and to pray before the weeping ikons of the Mother of God. Many bishops of the Russian 0rthodox Church 0utside of Russia were before the ikons. The head of the Russian Church 0utside of Russia, the deep elder Metropolitan Anastassy also prayed before the weeping ikons. In short, an occurrence that took place in a humble Greek family has become the property of all America. The fact of the wonderous manifestation of tears on these ikons is undoubted...

The rest of this article is found in 0rthodox Life, May/June 1960

"...has become the property of all America..."

The strong wording here contradicts the idea that another country's miracle icon in our country is none of our business.

This very night and at this very moment [7pm] the Kursk Root icon of the Mother of God is visiting St. Martin's MP-R0C0R parish where a moleben & akathist will be served and "visiting clergy are cordially invited to serve." [read: the local 0CA]. We know that the Mother of God loves and intercedes for all 0rthodox, and of course that includes those in the 0CA. But how sad it is to imagine R0C0R concelebrating with the 0CA in the presence of this icon.