Care for the Soul, a Thing Immortal

Frs.-Herman-and-SeraphimA1Test thyself, who thou art; come to know thy nature; come to know that thy body is mortal, while thy soul is immortal, that our life is two­-sided: one side, proper to the flesh, is transitory, while the other, related to the soul, does not admit limitation. Therefore, take heed to thyself, do not dwell on the mortal as eternal, and do not disdain the eternal as transitory. Do not care about the flesh, because it passes away; take care for the soul, a thing immortal.

— Saint Basil the Great

Fr. Herman (Podmoshesky), sometime abbot of St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, died today after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease and diabetes. While his wish was for his body to lie in the ground close to his friend and co-struggler in the monastic life, Fr. Seraphim Rose, his precious soul, which he poured out on behalf of so many, will still be alive in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved him. He is one of the first Orthodox pastors to teach me the true place of beauty in the spiritual life and how important it is to feed one’s soul with truth, beauty, and goodness before ever aspiring to things of the spirit. Continue reading

Pop Culture That’s Alive

In a previous post, I exaggerated a bit about our family’s lack of media consumption. We do watch a little bit of television in Russia, but it is the kind of programming that we don’t find in America. After breakfast around 10:00am, we watch a 20 minute segment of cultural news on a whole channel appropriately named Kultura which also features documentaries, interviews, classic films, fine art reviews, opera, ballet… you name it. It’s a bit like PBS on steroids.

Similarly, the children’s theatre here is on a whole different level. I went today with my children to the Old Moscow Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard; it was the first time for me as well as for my children. Continue reading

When Things Don’t Work

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

An avid reader of this blog several years ago implored me to tell a few of the difficulties of living abroad with a large young family. While I do not wish to complain about our gracious host country, I also do not want to paint all of our experiences with an overly rosy outlook. Truth be told, it is often quite hard, especially when things don’t work out the way they are planned. And especially for us Americans who just expect everything as a rule to be safe, expedient, and convenient, a paradoxical place like Russia can become quite unnerving. 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

The Beauty of Language

IMG_5286June 6, Birthday of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin

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

A Routine Vacation

Arrived yesterday to Moscow for our family’s seventh time in the land of the Rus. Mama Friar and our brood of four preceded me by two weeks. It is a great place to vacation as we have established patterns that we easily settle into here. A young family such as ours needs routine even when we are attempting to be adventurous and break out into something new.

Our daily schedule while we are here in Moscow runs more or less as follows. Wake up to morning prayers followed by tea and kasha. After breakfast, the middle of the day is usually a museum or show that is reachable by public transportation (bus, trolley, or subway). We return late afternoon to our apartment for tea and refreshments. Kids go with a designated adult to one of several local (and colorful) playgrounds while the others prepare dinner. In the evening, we gather for the most relaxed meal of the day and the most likely time to receive guests: suppertime. Continue reading