May you have a blessed Synaxis of Saint John the Baptist today. Christmastide is now over, but I wish to share a few more seasonal news items and videos. Euronews recently carried a story about the visit of the magi’s gifts to Russia this year: “They came from afar to see the gifts of the wise men in St. Petersburg.”
Note the woman interviewed who discovered new information about the faith during her veneration of the relics. The Soviets ensured that generations of Russians were ignorant of their ancestral religion, and the level of popular religious knowledge is low. However, it is getting better in Russia, which is sadly not the the case in America. American teenagers are largely ignorant heathen who do not even recognize major biblical events or the people involved.
Now, some readers will roll their eyes and channel their inner David Hume when they read about Orthodox folks’ venerating the gifts of the magi. The gifts are normally kept on Mount Athos in the Monastery of Saint Paul; you may read the monastery’s description of the gifts on Full of Grace and Truth: “The Precious Gifts of the Magi, and the Monastery of St. Paul.” Their argument is basically that the Theotokos was like every Jewish mother who hordes everything connected with her child—and even more so, given that her baby boy is the messiah. People were—and still are—interested in his stuff, you know. Moreover, I lean toward believing the tradition, even in its seemingly outlandish claims, over the Bollandist approach that pretends that we moderns know far more than we do. How many times have the Bollandists and their ilk had to eat crow? Such a reductionist attitude is not only mistaken in Christian hagiography; time and time again, pagan myths and folk legends have been shown to point to fact. We should be a bit more modest before we discount the established and ancient opinions of men, but modern man is ever learning anew that fire is hot.
As for Theophany yesterday, there are dozens of news stories online about the celebrations, especially since the Olympics will soon open in Sochi and journalists from all over are already in Russia. How many times did the following statement occur among the press this past weekend? “Naked Russians dip in the water outside in mid-January? Hey, let’s do a story on that.” For coverage and photographs of the day, check out Russia Profile, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, NBC News, CBS News, Moscow Times, Daily Mail, Irish Times, Kyiv Post, and Euronews. Just looking at the pictures makes me cold. The Ethiopians and the Greeks have it much easier.