First full day in Russia. We succumbed right away to our American need for daily coffee, although, when we are in Russia, we drink a lot more instant coffee because it is kind of a thing here if you drink coffee at all. To this day, no matter where I am in the world, if I drink freeze-dried, instant coffee, it takes me to Russia (even more than vodka or tea).
But seriously, I feel so grateful on my first day back after four years of being away. Grateful for this land and culture that raised my wife and, at least partially, is raising my children. Grateful for a local program here that allows families of our size discounts and perks to encourage others to have larger families. It is a very positive place to bring kids: visiting museums, traveling to interesting places, and eating authentic market-purchased food. We even toasted last night to Russian cows for their delicious dairy products, some of which Americans are just now discovering. Continue reading →
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.
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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
Now 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.
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 →
It has happened to me twice now, so there is no denying its power. We travel today to the Moscow Pushkin Museum on the anniversary of A. S. Pushkin’s birthday Jun 6, 1799 for a concert of poetry and music performed by children of the age of my own. The show begins with a recitation of the great author’s poetry. Just like several years ago when I came for the same event for the first time, I understood not a word of it. But just like then, I still could not help but weep for the beauty of it. Continue reading →
Just getting ready to sit down as a family and watch the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony tonight in Sochi, Russia on the Black Sea. It is a long and often difficult road for any city to host a worldwide event like the Olympics, and we have personally traveled that road with Sochi. Went there several times as a family and blogged about it as well, for those interested in reading something else about this resort, seaside beauty besides Russia’s stance on homosexuality or difficulty with security. We can’t wait ourselves to see on TV how much they have built since we visited a few years ago.