We returned on Friday from our monastic retreat to greet some new company in our Moscow apartment. Our cousin and his family arrived from Surgut on vacation and stay at a nearby hotel while taking most evening meals with us. He is a fine fellow and his lively wife and 3 girls are the best company any soul could ask for, but their taste in entertainment is a little different from ours. And coming from the monastery only increases my own culture shock.
He invited us yesterday to accompany his family to see a show at the Moskvarium, a kind of sea-themed theater located in a huge cultural park of other museums and theaters north of Moscow called V.D.N.H. [pronounced V-Din-Ha]. We visited V.D.N.H. right before traveling to the monastery and went that time to a special museum dedicated to robots. My older son loved it, but I was less enthused by all the noise. This time I had high hopes that the show might combine the best in Russian theatre and dance with a theme park invented in America. What transpired was one of the strangest spectacles I have seen so far in Russia. Continue reading
Sunday, May 31, 2015
Feast Day of Pentecost
It always happens to me as we near the end of our time in Russia. The battle fatigue sets in from being constantly surrounded by a culture not my own, hearing another tongue I can barely speak myself, and meeting people with whom I miss so many unspoken cultural cues and gestures. In its most extreme form, it is called culture shock, and even the most seasoned travelers are subject to it. The best remedy for it is a kind of cross-cultural humility that’s hard to come by for most Americans, and especially for this one.
Growing up in a small town in the midwest, I found excursions to the big city of Toledo to be enough of a thrill. When we wanted to visit a foreign country, we traveled several hours north and crossed the border into Canada (in those days, they did not even require a passport). With our country surrounded on two borders by oceans, it is easy for us to think of ourselves as the center of the world. The farthest most Americans I knew traveled was down to Florida for Disneyland. But there was one exception to this general rule, and that was those who had accepted the call to be missionaries and spread the Gospel throughout the world. Continue reading
First Week of Great Lent
I grew up near one of the best amusement parks in the country, or so the advertisements boldly proclaimed. As a child, I envied the houses we passed along the way as we started getting closer to the place of our yearly pilgrimage of fun. How did these folks get so lucky to live so close to a place where perpetual thrills were to be had almost 24/7? Surely a place with this much mindless entertainment must be like living in a virtual paradise. Yet my youthful impressions lasted only as long as the day, and my disappointment in the end came from the fleeting and exhausting nature of this exhilaration. For a steady diet of cotton candy and deep fat fried fun begins in sweetness but turns very quickly into bitterness. Continue reading
And what of us in the West, and particularly in America? Do we have any image that explains our situation as well as Gulag does that of Russia? I am afraid there is an image, most unflattering to us, which is almost our equivalent of Gulag. It is “Disneyland” an image which exemplifies our carefree love of “fun” (a most un-Christian word!), our lack of seriousness, our living in a literal fool’s paradise, unaware or barely aware of the real meaning and seriousness of life.
— Blessed Fr. Seraphim Rose
On Maintaining an Orthodox Worldview (excerpt)
I have labored for years to understand this word of wisdom from one my most formative of spiritual fathers. The truth of it resonated deeply upon first hearing it, but I have had great difficulty articulating the opinion to those outside of Orthodox Christian influence. After all, Disney means more to us Americans than just another movie theater company. It is a whole experience, a place of pilgrimage, even a complete view of the salvation of mankind, and this was finally made much clearer to me recently by Disney’s own excellent apologetic for its dogma, Saving Mr. Banks. Continue reading
Just returned from one of our favorite Greek Orthodox monasteries in Quebec, Canada, Panagia Parigoritissa. My wife and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary this coming winter and it has been almost ten years since we self-published our first little travel guide entitled Friar’s Guide to Family Friendly Monasteries in North America. While much of the information in the original booklet is dated, the introduction is timeless, and I offer it here as an especial tribute to one of our most favorite of family vacation spots. Continue reading