The Best of Our National Heritage

48205054051_6e697aa29a_kWe are blessed with almost perfect weather this week, almost like Southern California. On day 2 at Camp Radonezh near Optina Monastery, the same pattern follows except that I am given a different obedience and a different set of campers in the morning. We hike to the farther Skete of Saint John the Baptist in order to pick berries, that great Russian tradition and past time. This time, a particular young man is the de facto leader of the group and what a lad he is: the kind of boy who knows the answer before the question is asked, an uber-capable young man already at the age of 10. He, of course, not only speaks decent English but claims to teach it along with Spanish. I have no way to evaluate the latter skill but given his proficiency in everything else, I have no doubt. Continue reading

A Monastic Camp

48205061766_f6f90aef5c_kWe arrived last night and awoke to our first day at Camp Radonezh located just a few kilometers down the road from Optina Monastery. It is so far a great combination of two great loves of our family– camping and monasteries in a rare combination of both.

We begin and end the day with traditional services in slavonic. The campers take turns reading the ancient, yet timeless prayers. It is striking that though so many different editions of the prayer books are present, they all say the same prayers in the same order. We have not prayed these prayers in English long enough to achieve this level of unity (just over 150 years). There is something truly powerful about entering a language that has been prayed for over a millennium. Continue reading

Old And New Jerusalem

June 30, 2019
In honor of the 5th Anniversary of the Repose of Fr. Herman Podmoshensky

What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem? The famous quip from the first century critic Tertullian was meant to dismiss any possibility of cross-pollination between these two ancient cities and cultures. On the one hand, Jerusalem, city of the Savior and of the chosen people who gave Him birth stands as a symbol of separation from the world and all its lusts. On the other, Athens, city of the gods beyond numbering and of philosophies beyond counting, stands as a paramount symbol of this world and its festival of vanity. Such was the diametric opposition that these two cities represented.

Монастырь_Оптина_Пустынь

I felt a similar separation between America and Russia the first time it was presented to me by one of my spiritual fathers whose repose we remember this day. In hearing of Holy Russia, Third Rome, and the Holy Elders in a 19th century monastery called Optina, I could only respond, “What hath Madison Avenue to do with this new Jerusalem?” Continue reading

Taking the Kids to Church

Have an update on this original post. Please see below the photos of the new cathedral being built in the center of Surgut. Glory to God for all things!

Like Mendicant Monks...

May 21, 2015

Feast of the Ascension
Repose of John Eliot,
Apostle to the Native People of Massachusetts

Surgut wakes up to remind us that we are only about 5 degrees south of the Arctic Circle. The warm weather anomaly ceased yesterday as temperatures dropped by over 20 degrees Fahrenheit and we dug out the few sweaters and jackets we brought to make the trek to church for the feast.

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From Communism to Community

russia-st-petersburg-kommunalka-communal-kicthenSaturday, June 22, 2019
Eve of the Sunday of All Saints

Today is day 2 of our extended family visiting from Surgut: our cousin with her four children and us with our five. With three adults and nine children, we have turned our three room apartment into a kind of kommunalka, a living arrangement from Soviet times in which several families/individuals shared a common kitchen and bathing facilities. That’s all it takes is for one of these nine children (ages 3-17) to start loosing their cool and the whole household can become unbearable. Continue reading

Strangers in a Strange Land

205001.pMonday, June 17, 2019
Day of the Holy Spirit

I have blogged before about the challenges of culture shock, dealing with the strangeness of visiting a culture not your own. Just as we expect to find many things we love from back home but don’t find them, there are many things to discover in the new culture that pleasantly surprise us. For example, I had been coming to Russia for several years before I discovered the American ex-patriot community in Moscow, those raised in America who for whatever reason, either personal or business-related, have chosen Moscow as their primary residence. It’s a reminder that there are more reasons to live here in Russia besides the desire to collude in American elections. Continue reading

Pentecostal Pizza

nypizzapieSunday, June 16, 2019
The Day of Pentecost, Birthday of the Church

Funny how when one visits somewhere on the other side of the planet, there is simply an expectation that everything you know and love where you are from will be waiting for you there as well, or at least it will be available in a similar sort of way. This is my sixth time visiting Russia, and each time I attempt to make New York style pizza for our guests/hosts with varying degrees of success. Continue reading