The Winter Olympics will close on Sunday. I hope that they will have been an edifying experience for the athletes, their staff and families, the visitors, and observers throughout the whole world. For the last Russian themed entry during the Olympics, I want to post something that represents the two teams for whom I cheered—the Russkies and the Americans (though I was quite satisfied with the French sweep of men’s skicross—c’était super!). Thus, I offer a lovely video from the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad—“Russian America.” In the video, Fr. Artemy Vladimirov of the Alexeevsky Monastery in Moscow visits a few parishes and monasteries of the Church Abroad in the Eastern American Diocese and reflects upon what he finds. The following has been translated into English, but you may also watch the Russian version here.
I think that the target audience for the production is Russians in Russia. It allows them to see their spiritual brethren across the oceans. It also, one might add, calms fears that they may have about what Americans are doing with the faith, given the modernist troubles that bubble in certain other jurisdictions. In the Church Abroad, though, they would recognize their religion. I felt the same (in reverse) both in Russia and at the holy places tended by the Russian Church in Israel.
Of course, my favorite part of the video was the goats at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in West Virginia. I did not see any cats, but chickens were there for a decent substitute. Besides that given, my favorite part of the narration was Fr. Artemy’s comments during the segment on the parish of Saint John the Baptist in D.C. (starting at 13:30 in the video):
. . . And when you immerse yourself in the elements of parish life, you are convinced with your own eyes that Christ is the true father and savior of all peoples. This is an amazing confluence of hearts and minds between those who were born in America and speak only English [and] those who have only just arrived from Russia and still speak no English at all. It is a true kinship of spirit when the national and regional differences take a backseat to the image of God radiating within us all—in the elderly and children alike, and they feel themselves lighthearted, free, and at ease like flowers in a summer meadow. Such is Orthodoxy; it does not, as you know, exterminate that which is unique in the individual. Quite the opposite—it gives everything true value and significance. At the same time, it unites diverse tribes and peoples in one harmonious family, which offers mutual aid, joy, and interaction—and, of course, a desire to praise the Lord with one mouth and one heart. . . .
Once, a Jesuit professor and advisor of mine lectured me on how offensive he found Orthodox Churches as they carried their national designations—Russian Orthodox, Arab Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and such. He found such anti-Catholic and divisive. I have never understood his attitude. True Catholicism is enriching, not effacing. We are not Buddhists, after all, who denounce the manifold splendor of being rather than embracing it as a reflection of God. Christianity preaches true diversity—we are children of the father of the nations. There is a reality—a divinely desired reality—in human diversity—among individuals, families, and communities. To find a particular concrete group expression of the gospel offensive makes as much sense as finding a particular concrete individual expression of the gospel offensive. “Sorry, Barbara, resistance is futile; you will be assimilated.” It is the new Buddhism, only without the insights of the old! The new Buddhism manages to combine nihilism in principle with egoism in practice. That is what Hell calls a two-fer!
There is something pernicious in the modern soul that wants to reduce all phenomena to some base identities and laws, to render the beautiful complexity of mankind a sterile, bland “autonomous individual,” and to disfigure the rich topography of the cosmos with the clumsy, flattening trowel of modern man’s emaciated spirit. Such is not Catholicism. Such is not Christianity. Grace fulfills and perfects; it does not destroy.
I would like to end the post with a call for peace—an important aspect of the Olympic Games. Metropolitan Hilarion has requested that the following petition for peace in the Ukraine be added to litanies:
Again we pray Thee, O Almighty Lord, that Thou mightest grant peace to Kiev, the Mother of Russian cities which is shaken by civil strife, and the entire country of Kievan Rus’, and by the power of the grace of Thy Holy Spirit extinguish all enmity and violence therein; O Source of goodness and Abyss of love for mankind, quickly hearken and have mercy.”