Saturday, May 04, 2019

2019 Moscow Trip -- Part 3

A Weekday Parish Liturgy
Tuesday, February 26th

The plan that morning was for me to serve at a nearby parish, where Fr. Paul Ermilov would also be serving, and then to catch a ride with him to the second and final day of the conference.

Fr. Sergei had walked me past the Holy Trinity Church on Sunday, to make sure I knew how to get there, and I pulled it up on Yandex (the Russian version of Google Maps), and hoped to find a short cut Fr. Sergei and I had taken. The temperature was just above freezing, and it was raining, though not very heavily. The sidewalks we still icy, however, and I almost slipped, which caused me to do something to the Yandex map, and when I tried to reload it, my very spotty internet access failed to deliver. So I ended up going a slightly longer route, but one that I knew would get me there.

The Holy Trinity Church

When I entered the Church, I saw that they had a altar on the right side of the Church, and they seemed to be well into a service, but I knew I was arriving well before the time I was told to be there (the service was supposed to start at 8:00 a.m.). The rest of the Church appeared dark, and so I thought perhaps they were doing a moleben or something before the Liturgy. I poked my head into the altar, and could tell that they were well into a liturgy, and so I was obviously in the wrong place... and so I poked back out. The priest who was serving came after me, to see what I was looking for, and when I told him I was supposed to serve with Fr. Paul Ermilov, he told me it that this service would be at the St. Nicholas parish, just about a block down the road. 

I messaged Fr. Paul via Whats App to let him know of my mistake, but that I was on my way. He offered to send someone to get me, but the directions seemed straight forward enough, and so I walked over to St. Nicholas.

The Iconostasis of St. Nicholas

When I entered the altar I was a little surprised to see how many clergy would be serving. There were about eight priest serving, plus a deacon or two, and this was not a part of the conference, just a Tuesday morning Liturgy at this parish Church.

Fr. Paul pointed me to the vestments set aside for me, and then once again tried to find a kamilavka that was large enough for my head -- but once again, there were none big enough. They must not do ten-gallon kamilavkas in Russia. Fr. Vladimir Vorobyov, the dean of the University and rector of the parish, presided over the service.

There were a few things that were very striking to me. One was that the choir sang the entire Liturgy in Byzantine chant (in Slavonic). Fr. Paul assured me that that was not the norm, but that the music professor who was conducting the choir liked to change things up. Byzantine chant is easily done badly, but this choir did it amazingly well, and it was very beautiful. I was also impressed by how full the choir was, as well as how many people were there for the service. I also couldn't help but notice the loving interactions among the clergy. They seemed to not just be serving together, but to really have a strong bond with each other. It was a joy to be part of it.

The Altar of St. Nicholas

At one point, Fr. Paul showed me around the Church a bit, and opened up a cabinet that had rows and rows of chalices, diskoi, Crosses, and other Church items, and he said that this parish was one of only a handful of parishes in Moscow that were never closed by the Soviets, nor did it ever fall into the hands of the "Living Church." Consequently, as other parishes were closed, these items were brought here for safe keeping.

At the end of the Liturgy we did a short moleben to St. Seraphim (Sobolev) of Boguchar (Bulgaria), whose feast day it happened to be. He had been a bishop of the Russian Church Abroad before World War II, but after the war, since he did not attempt to evacuate ahead of the Soviet advance, he became part of the Moscow Patriarchate. He was glorified by the Church of Bulgaria in 2016.

As it turned out, St. Seraphim had a very important connection with this community.

After the Liturgy we went to the parish hall for breakfast. On the wall I noticed a picture, which I though looked a little bit like Fr. Vladimir Vorobyov, but it looked older, and so I asked who it was. It turned out to be the founder of the community that eventually founded St. Tikhon University -- Fr. Vsevolod Shpiller.

Fr. Vsevolod Shpiller

Fr. Vsevolod had been an officer in the White Army during the Russian Civil War. He was among those who evacuated to Constantinople when that war was lost, and then settled in Bulgaria, where he became a spiritual child of St. Seraphim. He was ordained a priest in 1934, and then in 1950 he was given a blessing by St. Seraphim to return to Russia, where he became the rector of St. Nicholas. He was evidently both a very charismatic man, and deeply spiritual. He gathered together a thriving community which included many intellectuals. He reposed in 1984, and so long before his worked blossomed to the extent that it has in our time, but this community would not be what it is today without him having done the difficult work he had done during the Soviet period.

Perhaps the attendance was higher than a normal weekday Liturgy because it was the feast of St. Seraphim, but it was very impressive to me that on an otherwise normal Tuesday, there were two Liturgies held within a block of each other, and staggered so that those who wanted to attend liturgy before going to work or school would be able to do so.

After the meal, we caught a cab back to St. Tikhon University for the second day of the conference.

The Sretensky Monastery

Unfortunately, I didn't have Fr. Sergei with me to provide a live translation of the talks presented. I hope that they will eventually make their way into English translations, because from what I could make of them, they all sounded very interesting. Since my ability to follow the conference was limited, Fr. Sergei had suggested taking me to the Sretensky Monastery at around 2:00 p.m., and so he came by to pick me up, and we walked in that direction.

On our way, we stopped at the Vysokopetrovsky Monastery, which would have been worthy of a visit all unto itself. I think you could stand just about anywhere in Moscow, throw a stone in any direction, and find yourself near an important Church or Monastery.

We were planning on meeting Jesse Dominick, and we had hoped with Mother Cornelia (Rees) -- but unfortunately, it did not work out to meet them both. They both make the English website possible (which is one of the best Orthodox websites in English), and over the years I have corresponded a lot with both of them. At least we got to meet with Jesse.

We had a very nice meal at a cafe run by the monastery, and then headed to their administrative building to meet with the person in charge of their extensive publications, to discuss the possibility of having some English liturgical texts printed in Russia.

I had visited this monastery in 2007, and found it to be very impressive back then, but since that time, it has expanded tremendously, both in terms of its complex, and the ministries that it provides.

One thing that was new is the Cathedral, which Jesse gave us a tour of.

It was nice to once again be able to venerate the relics of the Hieromartyr Hilarion (Troitsky).

It was also nice to see further evidence (as I also saw in many other Churches) of how popular the veneration of St. John of Shanghai is in Russia.

And evidence of the popular veneration of the New-Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth was also evident in almost every Church.

The new Cathedral also has a chapel with an adult baptistery. This is something that was not needed often before the Bolshevik Revolution, because most Russians were baptized as infants, but as Russia has been returning to Orthodoxy, this has become very necessary.

Fr. Sergei had to return to his secular job, but Jesse promised to walk me back to St. Tikhon University, and so I was able to hang out longer.

While there, he interviewed me for, and the text of the interview is posted here:
"The Waters have been Muddied" An Interview with Fr. John Whiteford on the Ukrainian Crisis and the Judgment of God
I made it back to the Conference in time to catch the tail-end of their panel discussion, and then had some time to visit with several of the clergy while we waited for our rides to take us home. During this time I learned that Fr. Paul Ermilov had seven children, and had another on the way, but that his family was not one of the larger families in their community. He talked about how the Russian government provides subsidies for large families to get into adequate housing. What a contrast with the anti-child attitude so often found in America.

Another Part of Fr. Vsevolod Shpiller's Vision

I once again was given a ride by Fr. Dimitri. and rode this time along with Fr. Darko. Fr. Dimitri asked us if we would like to see the school that is associated with the University, and we both said we would be happy to do so.

The vision, which traces back to Fr. Vsevolod Shpiller, is to provide an Orthodox education that goes all the way from the earliest grades, through the university level, and they now have all of those basic pieces in place, though they continue to work on expanding and perfecting that vision.

The school building was, I believe, four stories, and includes a beautiful chapel. Fr. Dimitri showed us several of the class rooms, and it all looked like it must be a wonderful school.

Finally, I arrived back at my apartment, overlooking the Ss. Martha and Mary Convent, for one final night. The plan for the next day was to visit the St. Sergius Trinity Lavra in the morning.

To be continued...

2019 Moscow Trip -- Part 1

2019 Moscow Trip -- Part 2