Category Archives: Orthodoxy

Happy Lazarus Saturday Eve!

Happy Lazarus Saturday Eve! It’s the Anniversary of my and my son Johan’s baptism in Christ.

I remember the event five years ago like it was yesterday. It was pouring rain. I brought in my entire family, most of whom are not Orthodox, and had to fend off difficult questions and pretend that I didn’t hear unpleasant asides that I overheard.

Now, from the vantage point of history, the day seems so magical to me. Well, more mystical than magical, because my memory of it is tempered with heart-pain.

I sit here alone and estranged. I can only dream of the day I’ll see my family again, intact.

With God, all things are possible. But then, when we don’t walk with God and seek after our own worldly contentment, then how thin is that life!

As I recall our baptismal gifts, I think of the words of St. Barsanuphius of Egypt, who said, “Every gift is received through pain of heart.”


Just a whim — St. Basil the Blessed

vasblazhJust a whim — St. Basil the Blessed

That famous cathedral in Moscow is named after St. Basil, a holy fool. Here’s an icon of him. In the U.S. the man would be scorned, ridiculed, and thrown in an asylum. Probably anywhere in the world today he would be treated likewise (even Russia).

Not so in his day.

Then they recognized him for what he was: holy.

GQ Does Pussy Riot… Shadows of Mandela, Lenin Shimmer

If the Russian judiciary keeps up their bumbling of the Pussy Riot case, they’ll make Pussy Riot into a kind of Mandela upon their release…

I’m kinda having a turnaround on the whole Pussy Riot saga over in Mother Russia. Not that I’m losing my Orthodox faith (hanging on as only a knave of sinners can hang on). Nor that I’m siding with those blasphemous punk sluts (I still hold that a reality show of babushkas flogging them in Red Square in the public view showed on a continuous loop for one full church calendar year would be the most just of all acts of penitence for their atrocity in the cathedral last February). But I am beginning to come around to the belief that the Russian judicial wing really muffed the kick on this entire issue with each development. And this latest round of tricks really shows how shaky its hand is in its handling of the affair.

GQ just published its November issue, with an exclusive prison interview with the girls held in prison. Recall they were locked up for their February assault on the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. I’ve written about this several times before and I won’t waste too much time rehashing the whole story, but let’s just say that the act itself was about as offensive to an Orthodox Christian as walking into the Auschwitz Museum in Poland and singing “Deutschland uber alles” would be to someone of the Jewish faith. Or, perhaps, building a Wahhabi mosque somewhere near Ground Zero in New York.

Nah, Lenin works better as an analogy for Pussy Riot. He was more their type. Back from exile the’ll be ready to roll over the Kremlin.

Three members of the “collective” were convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in a medium security prison. The GQ story, while I completely disagree with its politics, is an excellent interview by journalistic standards. And a great act of penetration I might add, slut pun notwithstanding. The magazine boasts it did the interview by “slipping” the questions in through Pussy Riot’s lawyers. Apparently, not only did it fool the authorities in getting the questions through, but the answers to two of the three questions slid through the dopey prison guards. End result: a pretty expansive Q&A session with the world’s most fashionable (and slutty) punk exiles.

The problem is, from the desecration of the cathedral on to this point, the Russian government, from the judiciary to Putin to Medvedev has been doing little to deflect attention away from the case. The band’s plight — first its arrest, then its jail time awaiting trial, then its conviction, and then its sentencing and now its time in prison, has attracted copious worldwide attention, and galvanized abundant anti-Russian support, against Putin, against the Church, against anyone there that has kind of institutional or moral authority.

For instance, the hate group Femen has been chainsawing crosses down and paying “bounties” for others to do the same. Copycats across Russia have been busy defacing Russian churches. Meanwhile, the Russian judiciary, by locking up Pussy Riot has emboldened opposition to it and radicalized hatred of the Orthodox Church, which has for the two decades enjoyed a huge revival in post-communist Russia. It’s as if their moves have loosed the ghosts Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, and the whole cabal of rabid commie church-haters upon the  land again.

One way to deal with the crisis would be to let the girls out now and deal with the aftermath as coolly as possible. (Another way to handle such crises in the future would be to behead the girls, stage anti-western riots daily, burn American flags for insulting Orthodoxy, and then western apologies for Russophobia would come pouring in. That simple. But we don’t have to wax hysterical over such black humor, don’t we?)

On a serious note, the Russian Orthodox Church now permits its own clergy to run for political office. Not sure how I feel about that yet, but at least we know that the Church, the State, and the country in general don’t give a hoot about what anyone else in the world thinks. And kudos for that…

Not ironically, the Church itself has asked several times for that judicial system to have mercy on those grrls, although a unified call for their early release from prison has not quite been uttered. Many church members have voiced a personal desire for immediate clemency for the three, but not the entire hierarchy. In fact, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev has called for their release for time served, yet his plea has fallen on deaf ears. Instead, the bumbling Russian judiciary allows western press access to the girls by hook or by crook, as if to strengthen Pussy Riot’s already strong, unfeminine hands. More Stings, more Madonnas, more Paul McCartneys, more James Camerons, more publicity, more empowerment to the exile.

The girls are apparently reading Solzhenitsyn in their cells. Next thing you know, Pussy Riot will become Russian Mandelas, ready to topple Putin and United Russia from power when they get let out. Russia will be run by a triumvirate of Pussy Power…Imagine that! (I bet there are a few Russians that actually could.) Actually, those slutty chicks wouldn’t be like Mandela at all. They would more resemble Lenin, coming out of the Zurich exile in 1917 to try to kill Christ again in Mother Russia.

Crazy thoughts, for bizarro days. But they fit. They really do.

Russian Patriarch Reaffirms Need for Powerful Russian State

Patriarch Kirill on Friday re-emphasized the importance of the ties between church and state in Russia, saying that it gave “clear and very definite support to state authorities.”

Reuters took this to indicate a reaffirmation of its support expressly for Putin, basically regurgitating the subtext of jailed punk rock sluts Pussy Riot when it sacked the Christ the Savior Cathedral last February to play a really bad “punk moleben,” which cost three band members two years in prison.

[Full disclosure: I used to be a Reuters correspondent, in Vilnius, Lithuania, not far from Russia. I might as well have joined Putin’s torture squads underneath Red Squad with my differences with them on this one.]

Here’s what the Patriarch actually said, as quoted by the Reuters reporter (italics are mine):

Reuters claims Russian Patriarch Kirill shown all support for Putin, which he expressly denied in the speech which they covered. Nice editing job again Reuters!

“The institution of power appeared in the world, in a society prone to sin, to safeguard this society so that people could live together. So, clear and very definite support by the Orthodox Church for the institution of state authorities does not amount to an assessment of this or that politician or state figure by every representative of the church. But it is indispensable to understand that safeguarding the institution of power is a guarantee of a flourishing society.”

In other words: power institutions are instituted (he would imply by God) to help protect a society already beset by sin from itself. In a sense, this is correct: If you take away government, given human nature, you are left with looting and shooting. Reuters is trying to imply that Patriarch Kirill is furtively fingering its big-stick support for Putin without actually saying so. But if you read carefully the statement that Patriach Kirill made, you’ll see that he specifically avoided mentioning specific politicians. I’m sure he had his reasons.

The other part of the article discusses proposed changes to Russia’s criminal code, partially due to the Pussy Riot cases. The Reuters article said:

The lower chamber of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, is now working on changes to the criminal code that would introduce jail sentences of up to three years for anyone guilty of offending religious feelings.

Critics say that this would blur the line between the state and the Russian Orthodox Church, and that the new law could be used to stifle Putin’s critics.

The parliament, which is dominated by Putin’s United Russia party, has already passed measures that the opposition considers repressive, such as increasing fines for protesters who step out of line and toughening the punishment for defamation.

Here’s the opinion of Tents of Sinners on this: Patriarch Kirill and the Church has its rights to support the state authorities. And why not? Is Russia the West? Did Russia ever have a Protestant Reformation and a separation of church and state? It did in a sense during the nightmare of communism. That’s called the demolition of the Church. This is also an Orthodox blog, so we hold that Russia would not ever want a Reformation. It wouldn’t need one either. The Orthodox Church does not believe it needs a Reformation. It doesn’t want nor seek Western-style theological constructs. And if it continues to import too many western values, pity on that society. It might as well detonate all its remaining nukes right in the Kremlin and head straight home to God.

But let’s go back to the sane part of this argument: Putin holds the reins, fair or unfair, for now. Sure, Patriarch Kirill thinks that Putin’s government is making the best of a challenging situation. The Patriarch has called him a “miracle of God” and in a sense we at Tents of Sinners agree. Putin as President of Russia has done a helluva lot better job than certain of his predecessors. Of course, the West liked Yeltsin better, partially perhaps, because an avuncular drunken hero was a lot easier to handle than a coolheaded, icon-kissing, former KGB agent. The former was weaker but softer, the latter was a hardbody, unpredictable, and perhaps worst of all, maybe even a bit anointed.


A Prayer for Strength’s on a Wife’s Troubled Name Day

Sts Joachim & Anna

Today is my wife Z’s name day, which she can hardly celebrate as she’s sitting in the ER with sensors glued all over her chest and arms, EKGs and the whole gamut. Her saint is St. Anna, of Joachim & Anna, parents of the Theotokos, the God-bearer, Mother of Christ, Mary. Yes, we are having a health scare (heart problems, just a scare?) and we covet your prayers. I feel that I have been a poor Christian of late, barely on heaven’s radar, because God has barely been on mine.

A little from the life of St. Anna, taken from the Orthodox Calendar site, linked above (paraphrased):

Saint Anna was of the tribe of Levi through her father, and from the tribe of Judah on her mother’s side. Her husband St. Joachim was descended directly from King David, which is where Christ gets His direct line to David.

The two lived in Nazareth, childless into  old age, considered a disgrace then. After a whole lot of prayer, fasting, and a key sacrifice, an angel appeared with a big announcement that, you guessed it:  “There would be born of them a Daughter, Who would bless all the race of mankind. By order of this Heavenly Messenger, Righteous Joachim and Anna met at Jerusalem, where through the promise of God was born to them the Daughter, named Mary.”

Both saints Joachim and Anna died within a few years of each other, at ages 80 and 70, respectively, after the entry into the Temple of the Theotokos.

I think of my wife, Z., who, by all accounts, gave me a miracle birth four years and four months ago. We called him a wonder, because he came about despite  her potential health problems that might have precluded her from having children. Our son is wonderfully healthy, and Z has been an incredible mother and a child of God, a real inspiration for me too. A testimony for my own faith when my flame is all but blown out with the winds of worldliness.

All I can ask now is for God’s strength for her, and for our family. Perhaps this will help me get a little back on track too so I stop being such a damned heathen.

Russian PM Calls for Riot Girls to Walk; Ukrainian Topless Fems Call for More Cross Cuts

Medvedev called for Pussy Riot’s early release from Russian prison. But does his opinion carry any judicial weight?

As the U.S. watches its embassies burn amid hordes of Salafis suffering from generalized vidiot hysteria, the war against Russia’s predominant Orthodox Christian religion and the grrl groups rages on, both in Russia, neighboring Ukraine, and soon, everywhere else, once again.

Late last week Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said that he believes the three members of Russia’s infamous punk troupe Pussy Riot imprisoned since March for playing a highly controversial stunt gig in Moscow’s main Christ the Savior Cathedral should be freed, essentially for time served. The three women were sentenced to two years in jail on hooliganism charges in what seen as a politically charged case that received heavy international attention.

Medvedev, speaking at a United Russia Party meeting in the Russian city of Penza, said that he thought that any further time served would be “counterproductive.”

In my opinion, probation would have been sufficient punishment, considering all the time they’ve already spent behind bars.

Many critics of of the Russian political and judicial system argue, however, that the prime minister lacks sufficient political influence on the judicial branch to have any impact on the case at this point. The New York Times reported that Medvedev had recently gotten involved in a case with an opposition activist jailed on drug charges, that some believed to be were trumped up. Instead, the activist received eight years in prison — double the time the prosecutors sought — after Medvedev intervened. May be more productive for the prime minister at this point to exercise his influence in more esoteric areas, such as British hard rock bands like Deep Purple

Still, we must ask, to what extent do the courts listen to any politicians in Russia? President Vladimir Putin also asked the court for leniency on Pussy Riot, as did the Russian Orthodox Church. The courts may have heeded them all — the group could have sentenced to up to seven years in the clink.

Nevertheless, more international Pussy Riot protests are scheduled shortly. The next round is October 1, in over 100 cities worldwide.

One of Pussy Riot’s allies, the Ukrainian feminist movement Femen, has been upping the ante on its anti-Christian schlock, offering bounties for anyone who cuts down or desecrates Christian crosses in honor of Pussy Riot’s incarceration. They are offering 6,000 rubles, around $188 for a hacked down cross, with a couple of other offerings on their price list, reports Russia Today:

Leaving an inscription on an Orthodox cross will net around $62, while graffiti on a church wall comes with a nearly hundred-dollar reward. The bounty list was published on the Internet by Karina Pankova, a 23-year-old woman who presented herself as the leader of FEMEN’s branch in northwest Russia’s arctic city of Murmansk.

Femen members chainsawed a famous wooden cross in the center of Kiev honoring those killed in Stalin’s purges shortly after the sentences in the Pussy Riot trial. Now Femen must be running out of chainsaw grease, or they must be feeling the chill of Ukrainian autumn coming on. Recall that they prefer to do their work in the semi-nude.

Update– Two Other Pussy Rioters Flee Russia: Hubby

According to the husband of one of the Pussy Riot punk group jailed in Russia on a hooliganism conviction, the other two group members sought by Russian police have fled the country to escape possible arrest. A total of five Pussy Riot members actually took part in the “protest” at Moscow’s famed Christ the Savior Cathedral near Red Square, from which two of the members were taken into custody and subsequently sentenced to two years in a medium-security prison on hooliganism charges.

The Pussy Riot husband, Pyotr Verzilov, added that although there were only five group members present at the Cathedral protest, there are actually around a dozen members in the band, which he called a “large collective,” proudly reminiscent of the Stalin days. If you recall, this blog has been likening the acts of this group, its larger art collective Voina, and its sister feminist movement Femen in the Ukraine to the anti-religious communist and Stalinist movements of the Soviet days of yore in that part of the world. All the western support that Pussy Riot has been receiving from music people like Sting and wash-ups like Madonna — people who have no idea of Russian history nor religion — are ignorantly applying the same totalitarian nostalgia to the situation as they howl for freedom of speech or artistic expression. I’ll take it a step further — while Verzilov and the collective try to find their next venue to create a monstrously obscene way to create shock value and call it protest art, they should also perhaps paint up icons of Stalin, Beria, or maybe Lenin, Trotsky, or other leader-killers of the Great Soviet past.

And as an aside, I’ve seen a lot of similes about the Pussy Riot debacle in the cathedral lately, so I’ll toss another into the mix: Suppose a Palestinian rights organization staged an obscene takeover of the Auschwitz museum in Poland. That’s kind of the same thing Pussy Riot did to Russian Orthodox believers. They really tried to mess with their heads, and hearts.

I hope whoever finds the other two Riot members knocks them out and packs them back to Russia — as fragile art supply, but sent to Siberia.