Orthodoxy Christianity in Russia

The revived and thriving Moscow Patriarchate

Sometimes in our media in the west, we find Russia portrayed in a less than friendly light, almost as if we were still in the dark days of the Cold War and the Nuclear Arms Race.

But the Soviet regime has fallen. And it’s iron grip of persecution against religion and against the Orthodox Church in particular have been loosed.

We in America and Western Europe are becoming increasingly post-Christian and as our values and policies toward so many things — that were once solidly grounded in our Christian past — have morphed to become ever more an expression of a selfish culture that cannot see beyond the fleeting pleasures of this temporal life.

Our morals suffer, our families are falling apart, and abortion, international warfare, and the love of money have reached levels never before seen by our forebears.

Amidst this, it is refreshing to see a proliferation of the Orthodox Faith in Russia among a people who have “been there” “done that” with secularism, atheism, and fanatical faith in science and political systems.

While our churches are closing, and being sold off (6 here on our island have disappeared, with one razed to the ground, four converted into homes and one into a museum!), Russia is making a herculean effort and spending a fortune in its effort to reopen churches and monasteries and raise up new churches and cathedrals.

The “Program for the Construction of Orthodox Churches of Moscow,” also known as the “200 Program,” is an example of this in Russia’s capital and largest city.

According to  Interfax-Religion, State Duma Deputy Vladimir Resin announced that 62 church complexes were built in the capital over the past eight years. Twenty-four churches were opened in Moscow, in 2017 alone! Another 31 are currently being built as part of the program and 4 outside of the program, and another 31 are in the design phase.

The main objective of the program is to build enough new churches throughout the capital so that there is always one within walking distance in the residential areas.

How many of us can say there is a church within walking distance of where we live, let alone an Orthodox church? And yet it was once this way in our country. Certainly times have changed and we are a much more mobile country with our cars and rapid transit, but still, it is a sad commentary on our homeland to see secularism accomplishing slowly but surely what Marxism accomplished so rapidly by force.

The 200 Program has been actively underway since 2011, with a plan of building 200 churches. The program continues to run entirely on the donations of citizens and organizations. A foundation established for collecting funds is co-chaired by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. The recent the economic crisis has not shaken the steady raising of funds.

According to the program’s updated plans, churches are being built to accommodate up to 500 worshipers, each.

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) also recently reported that more than 30,000 churches have been built over the past 30 years throughout the entire canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, bringing the total to about 40,000 churches. This is a phenomenal rate of growth, considering the sheer number of churches that were destroyed by the communists, during the Soviet period.

The program’s largest church, The Church of the Meeting of the Lord, able to accommodate 1,000 worshipers was recently opened, as was Moscow’s first church named in honor of the Tsar Nicholas II and his martyred family.

Things in Russia might not be as deep and dark and evil as our media would like us to believe. Politicians always need an enemy in order to rally people behind them. And in times of peace? Well, they sometimes create an “enemy” out of a country that means us no harm.

Sure secularism persists there as it does here. Abortion statistics in Russia are appalling as they are in Greece. Still, Russia appears to be a country where Christians are truly making an effort to impact the world around them and to make churches available. One wonders if perhaps America, Western Europe, and Scandinavia, are fast approaching the same fate as the former Soviet Union.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Saturday February 3, 2018 / January 21, 2018
Week of the Publican and the Pharisee. Tone one.
Fast-free Week. Fast-free

Venerable Maximus the Confessor (662).
Martyr Neophytus of Nicaea (305).
Martyrs Eugene, Candidus, Valerian, and Aquila at Trebizond (303).
Venerable Maximus the Greek of Russia (1556).
New Hieromartyr Elias priest (1938).
Virgin-martyr Agnes of Rome (304).
Martyr Anastasius, disciple of St. Maximus the Confessor (662).
Wonderworking Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of Paramythia(Vatopedi, Mt. Athos).
Icons of the Most Holy Theotokos “Stabbed” (“Zaklannaya”) and “Xenophite Hodegetria”.
Venerable Neophytes of Vatopedi on Mt Athos (Greek).
St. Zosimas, bishop of Syracuse (662).
Synaxis of the Church of Holy Peace by the Sea in Constantinople.
St. Timon, monk of Nadeyev and Kostroma (1840).

The Scripture Readings

Matthew 11:27-30

27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

2 Timothy 3:1-9

Perilous Times and Perilous Men

3 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

Luke 20:46-21:4

46 “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

The Widow’s Two Mites

21 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. 3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

12 comments:

  1. Father, I don’t mean to be rude. But, our country was never grounded in Christian values of any kind. We committed genocide to expand our country, massive genocide. Every war we have participated in, was entirely due to the dollar signs in our leaders eyes, or pride.

    The west has been secularized since the reformation and the enlightenment. You said that we, “have morphed to become ever more an expression of a selfish culture that cannot see beyond the fleeting pleasures of this temporal life.” But, this country has always been selfish, and more concerned with the pleasures of this life.

    You also said, “Our morals suffer, our families are falling apart, and abortion, international warfare, and the love of money have reached levels never before seen by our forebears.”
    These are all battles talked about in scriptures. Rome of Jesus day was rife with international warfare, and the love of money and pleasure. This is no different. And honestly, it is par for the course here in the USA.

    This is what the fathers of this country, who were ecumenist Mason’s nor Christian’s, built. This is what every President​ since George Washington has helped produce. We are not, and never were a country of “Christian values”.

    We are a secularist country, built on the values of the reformation and the enlightenment. Democracy and capitalism are not built on Christian principles. Not even slightly. Yet the Church as a whole has a tendency to lean that direction.

  2. Regarding your comment, Ephrem, yes, the US was founded on secular values, but even secularists retain some truth, and if America is not formally Christian, the US has certainly had a lot of Christians in it, none of whom are entirely bereft of truth and goodness. Regarding democracy, the Orthodox Church is not a democracy, but we do have some democratic tendencies: We are not authoritarian but a “Church of the people”, where all of us have the Spirit of God and all are guardians of the Faith. Father Ephrem, if US politicians gain power by erecting enemies to be feared, surely the Russian government is doing the same. Even if there are now more Orthodox churches in Russia, I don’t think the US started the present confrontation, and God help us all as both sides now reach for the nukes.

    1. Isn’t the church a monarchy, with Christ as our king? And sure there have been a lot of Christians in America, but there were a lot of Christians in Spain during the Inquisition too. And Germany during the Nazi regime. All I am trying to say, is that we as the Church don’t have to be patriots. We don’t have to root for America, because like all things on this plane it is temporary and will crumble eventually.

      I know my opinions aren’t popular, or fun to talk about. But, this is where we stand. There is a tradition in America, God and Country. And somehow this has become one in the same. America is not a Christian nation. It is a “free” state, wherein all of its constituents are encouraged to practice whatever faith they wish. The US is an ecumenist state, and the reason for the similarities between Putin and Trump? They are oligarchs. Our two countries are ruled by the rich.

    2. “I don’t think the US started the present confrontation.” Wow, that’s a truly & utterly astounding statement! Gee, What country was that that lead the coup against the democratically elected govt of Ukraine? Why are US troops on patrol in the Baltic Sea? Why are US troops on the ground in Poland and all over Europe right up to Russia’s borders? How dare Russia put their country so close to US military bases!! Can you imagine the freak out show that would ensue from MSNBC, the NYT and the WaPo if the Russian Navy was on patrol in the Gulf of Mexico or if they put troops in Canada or Mexico? R Maddow’s head would explode. But of course, it’s fine for us to that to them, and then cry “Russian aggression!” Perhaps, just perhaps, the aggressor is the country that currently has troops on the ground in over 150 countries and has a “defense” budget of close to one TRILLION dollars (more than 10 times that of Russia’s defense budget). The simple truth is that the US hates any country that won’t do whatever the US tells them to do. Russia, unlike pretty much every other country on the planet, has no interest in being a puppet of the US. Thus, they’re hated. The military industrial complex here always needs a boogeyman to frighten the American public, to keep up the horribly inflated “defense” budget that so many get rich off of. Sad that so many naively fall for a 1980’s narrative that’s been dusted off, repackaged, and sold to the American people.

      1. Well, Father Bill, it was not a democratically elected government that was governing the Ukraine, but a government put in place by the United States. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States promised Russia (now free of Communism) that Nato would NOT try to draw the former Soviet nations, including the Ukraine, into Nato. Instead of keeping our promise, we now surround Russia with Nato and US bases. Why are we not surprised that Russia has taken on a defensive stance?

  3. Dear Abbot Tryphon, This is a very good article. I follow, on FB, a Danish journalist who saw the trends in Russia – reviving their Christian roots and faith – and has visited and posted about what she finds there. She says she sees Russia moving closer to what America was – and the west; especially the US – moving toward what Russia used to be. Her view point is interesting and thoughtful, and also a bit sad and scary – for us.

      1. Unfortunately, we live in a very contentious time, and almost anything anyone publishes on the internet is going to get “trashed” by someone. It isn’t enough just read and think about someone else’s opinion. It seems that now there is a blood sport in trashing not only the opinion but the individual who holds it and all those who agree with it! Don’t stop giving your words, dear Abbot Tryphon. Jesus said that the world hated Him and that it will hate us, too. You may or may not be correct in everything you say and express. But you are in Good Company!

  4. During the last presidential campaign, I couldn’t figure out the “mainstream media’s” obsession with some supposed relationship between Trump and Putin and then I looked at it in terms of culture. The average Russian and the average Trump voter were probably quite similar–working class, not financially secure, and anxious about moral decline and the loss of cultural identity to immigration and postmodern philosophy. A coal miner in the Urals and a coal miner in West Virginia would probably end up on the same bowling team.

    As for the Russian government, I don’t know. The push to rebuild the Orthodox Church in Russia seems good, but to what end? Will the Moscow Patriarchate be “managed” for political purposes? It’s a similar situation to what the Vatican is dealing with in China. The price of Catholic legitimacy in China is going to be letting the Communist Party influence the selection of bishops. Is this a thing worth worrying about, though? I’m sure the relationship between Byzantine and Russian emperors and the Orthodox Church has always been…complicated. If the Gospel is taught and the Eucharist is given to more people, does the political background really matter?

  5. bless father hegumen:
    i am sincerely sorry to hear that you got trashed. while i may not agree with you at times, i respect you. i can learn from you. the disagreement stretches me to become more Christlike, caring and compassionate. i would ask you and the brethren to remember me in your prayers as i hit 2 milestones in the Year of the Lord 2018, 30 years as a monk and 20 years in pastoral ministry. pace e bene! father john

  6. Blessed father
    Russian people had lost freedom for religion, their sacred places ,their priests for so many years.
    Here in Greece we have plenty of everything ( churches, monasteries, priests, monks, nuns). That’s why we don’t value all these…….Unfortunately only when you loose something you can see its real value…
    Keep going. Your everyday words are valuable!

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