My Favorite Country

Moscow Metro

I love my mother’s homeland with surprising scenes. The beautiful metro with stained glass shows pictures, and the bright lights shine. The parks are full of flowers, trees and palaces. The sky has clouds that look like white smoke. The country sings many praises to God on high. Red Square is the heart of Moscow, and my favorite city is red top to bottom.

Our Home Away From Home

Red Square in Moscow, by Fedor Alekseev, 1801

My father always commented after a long time away that he was going back to work so that he could rest from his vacation. While everyone wishes for a vacation to get away from it all, the work required for the planning and execution keeps many a person from ever leaving their predictable patterns of home, school, and job. Yet unmitigated stress and monotonous labor strains both body and soul and causes one to forget his/her true purpose in this life and in the one to come. Continue reading

Oases of Calm in a Desert of Noise

For a large family like ours to come from a small city like Boston and choose a much larger city like Moscow for a summer vacation seems strange. Most folks that live in cities during the year seek to escape them in the summer. But Moscow is no ordinary booming metropolis.

Begun over eight centuries ago as the central meeting point of several other cities that form a golden ring around her, the city of St. George bustles with the busyness of a thousand villages rolled into one. One of only 24 megacities, it is the largest inland and coldest megacity in the world. Nestled in this beehive of commerce and activity are the jewels established many centuries past, the spiritual heart of Russia’s modern and ancient capital, the oases of calm in this grand desert of noise: the Moscow Monasteries. Continue reading

How’s the Weather There?

Moscow Sky

Alluring Moscow Summer Sky

There’s a saying in Boston that if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes.  It is even more true of Moscow in the summertime where clouds constantly roll and change a bright sunlit sky into a big downpour. After a downpour there is a cool weather. The weather here  like the people moves in strange and unpredictable ways and teaches all of us to lean not on our own understanding but in all things to discern the ways of providence.

Organic, Local Prayer Served 24/7

Street Chapel in Greece

Street Chapel in Greece

I had a seminary professor who ridiculed the idea of a small private chapel. He reasoned that if Liturgy means “the work of the people”, would not a private chapel limit this work to mere self-service or just a small hand-picked elite? While I agree with the principle of opening divine services to as many as possible, I think he might be missing the purpose of these smaller chapels and by extension the small, local parish church.

In Russia, the small chapels which dot the roadside, stand guard at the cemeteries, and provide a wayside Inn of Salvation at the airports and train stations are called chasovnya which I presume is derived from the Russian chas for “hour”. They are placed everywhere for those who need to pray at odd hours and not just the scheduled times of morning Liturgies and evening vigils. Their presence invokes the universality of the faith, that prayer is not limited to certain times or important metropolitan centers, but extends to the farthest reaches of creation. Continue reading

From Murder to Mercy

IMG_5512Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

Epistle of Apostle James Chapter 5

The senseless murder of innocents has often in history followed godless greed and unholy desire for personal gain. Midway through the 20th century experiment of atheist communism in Russia, Joseph Stalin felt the need to purify the system and find new sources of blame for his failing policies. Finding no blame in himself, he and his minions sought secretly and indiscriminately to purge undesired members of society in numbers before unimagined. Continue reading

An Underground Museum

I had an enlightened conversation the other day with the young daughter of my wife’s best friend in Moscow. In her young age of only 15, she has had the great fortune of living abroad with grandparents in Canada for half a year, and so she has some perspective on her own motherland. Since all of her family members are practicing artists, it is not surprising that our discussion revolved around art. But art for a Russian means something different than for an American, or rather the people have a different relationship to art. For a Russian, paintings are not simply objects which are consigned to museums, available for an elite segment of society that can afford the time and money to develop a taste for “that sort of thing.” They are rather like windows to the soul of every Russian, companions to them along the way, and just as everywhere present in society as icons are ever-present in the churches. Continue reading