Finally made it last week to San Francisco, the City by the Bay. I was here last without family when we were touring a Siberian priest around to American holy places. Today we celebrated our family’s name’s day, or what the Serbians call the family slava. Ours is the Russian Royal Family that was martyred by the Soviets in 1917 and whose memory we commemorate on the old calendar July 4/17. We traveled to the Russian Cathedral Joy of All Who Sorrow which was built by St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco whose relics/remains still lie in state in the church for any pilgrim to come and talk to him.
Our uncle who is a deacon on pilgrimage there prepared a wonderful little trapeza for us in the apartment he is staying near the church, and our children, all of whom are named after one of the Russian Royal Martyrs, celebrated their name’s day in style.
The famous saying that Christian Life is caught not simply taught relates to this injunction from the apostle to his disciple. I remember a time in my life when I had just graduated college that I eagerly desired to receive such a transmission. Oh, to be entrusted with the sacredkerygma of the living and saving Gospel of Jesus Christ from someone in that line of succession: a man who had heard it from a man who had heard it from another all the way back to the Lord himself. My own fathers In the flesh had all but denied this possibility. A writer of the book called The History of the Evangelical Association, a German pietistic confession that my ancestors followed in the mid-nineteenth century proclaimed about the historical apostolic succession “There remains an unbridgeable chasm between the Roman Catholic Church and our own Protestant one, and who can bridge this unbridgeable chasm?”
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 →
On this great feast day of America’s own saint, whose relics lie in the San Francisco Cathedral, I feel compelled again to bring the church into our home. I discover another divine service which is found online in both text and youtube, making it easy to pray along with the video. The Akathist Glory to God for All Things can be sung at any time for any reason, and I especially feel its message now as I plan departure from a city that has taken such good care of us these past several years. Wondrous is God in His Saints!
I remember so well the first time I stayed overnight in an Orthodox Christian monastery. I dreamed of every Christian camp and conference I had attended up to that point in my life, for they represented the highest and deepest of my spiritual experience. After just one day in the concentrated prayers of the monastic daily cycle, those previous experiences of prayer became as mere foretastes of reality. Continue reading →
From a small city church in Russian Siberia to one of America’s largest cathedrals in San Francisco, our batiushka (endearing term for priest) is about to finally complete his mission and strengthen a Cross-Pacific relationship that began in the middle of this past century. The story is bound up with one of America’s most beloved saints, Archbishop John of Shanghai and San Francisco, who after establishing St. Tikhon’s Orphanage in China, fled Shanghai in 1949 when the flood of communism spilled into that ancient land as well. The saint fled first to a storm-ridden island in the Philippines and then to San Francisco in 1962. What concerns our Siberian pastor is that many other Russians fled with the Archbishop from his home city of Kyakhta, an important trade center on the northern border with Mongolia. To mark this connection between the mother city and the place of these emigrants’ exile, batiushka has brought a copy of the icon Mother of God, Surety of Sinners, all the way from its original home in Kyakhta to the San Francisco Cathedral “Joy of All Who Sorrow” on Geary Boulevard. Continue reading →