Walking in a One-Storey Universe

Our modern culture celebrates the individual and his/her choices. We prize freedom above everything. But we long for something we cannot express. Human beings were created for communion and participation and we lose our way without it. The instinct for such a life has never disappeared from our culture, despite almost centuries of nurtured individualism. It gets expressed it bizarre ways. We have an almost mystical experience with certain sports and the commonality of shared loyalties; we are repeatedly drawn to music festivals that tragically become bacchanal reveries. Patriotism and its liturgical expressions (“USA! USA! USA!”) create a false, empty camaraderie with a very dark side. But the instinct remains and is good. I even find it hopeful. The instinct for communion bears witness to the truth of our creation and the oneness of our nature.

I am sharing a wonderful video (some 25 minutes in length) that looks at an event of communion in today’s Russia. It is the Velikoretsky Cross Procession, a pilgrimage that celebrates a miraculous icon. The pilgrims walk for nearly a week on a journey that began centuries ago. Many of them are under churched, barely formed in their Christian faith. But their instincts represent a Russian expression of enculturated Orthodoxy. “I don’t know why I come,” a young girl says. But her words express the deep longing of a heart for God – a God that permeates a people, the land and a common movement. An American listening to some of the comments might impute a form of nationalism to the sentiments. But that is simply projecting our modern experience onto a people whose sense of things (Russia, Orthodoxy, land, trees, water, health, marriage, icon, pilgrimage) is all somehow one thing.

I don’t share this video to say, “This is the ideal!” Rather it’s an example of something different. It has all the flaws that human beings bring – but they exist within a one-storey world, a world that still has deep, classical roots. May God bless!


  1. Steve Lewis says

    I was very moved by this video.

    I thought it was interesting when the priest was critical of the “folk” spirituality. Even at the destination he had to remind the lady what the objective was.

  2. says

    this was good until the nature worship at the end. sort of ruined it for me, but also is a reminder for those who put Russia or Russian spirituality above that of our own land. Russia has a long way to go as well.

  3. Margaret says

    I did go back and forth between thinking “hmmm, not so sure I want to continue” and “praise be to God” — the praises won!

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  4. fatherstephen says

    Yes. I mentioned this in the introduction. What is of note is not that this represents any ideal, but that it is so thoroughly one-storey. Even the ignorance is a one- storey ignorance. We have far to go ourselves, except that we have emptied God and even the “magic” out of our world. Russia has only been free of the Communists and able to begin(!) teaching since 1989.