Sunday, June 02, 2019

2019 Moscow Trip -- Part 4

Wednesday, February 27th
The Lavra

We headed out on foot, early, to make our way to the St. Sergius Holy Trinity Lavra -- one of the most holy places in the Russian Church. I had to take my luggage with me, and so we had to swing by the St. Nicholas Church, were Fr. Paul Ermilov allowed us to stash them for the day, and then we went to the nearby Metro station to catch the subway to the train station. Unlike when I took the Metro on Sunday, it was packed, and people were scurrying hither and thither in all directions. It was a mass of humanity, all on their various ways to get to work or school, and it made me feel a little claustrophobic. I had the song, don't fence me in playing in my head.

I don't remember if I have ever ridden a proper train before, but that's what we took to get to the town of Sergiev Posad, which surrounds the famous Lavra. The train we took there was very modern and comfortable, complete with free Wi-Fi. We had got our breakfast from some food carts that came by. When we arrived at our train station in Sergiev Posad, Fr. Sergei quickly called for a cab via Yandex, and we were dropped off just outside the entrance to the Lavra.

Before we entered the Lavra, we visited their restrooms. In Moscow, all of the bathrooms I encountered were very similar to what you would expect in the US, but these restrooms had the kind of hole in the floor toilet that me made glad I was not in need of figuring out how to properly do the "Asian squat".

I had visited the Lavra back in 2007, but we only had about 2 hours there, and so it was a bit rushed, and there was a lot that I didn't get to see. Upon entering the Lavra the first stop had to be to venerate the relics of St. Sergius of Rodonezh, who along with his brother, came to the place when it was nothing but a vast forest, and established the monastery that developed into the most important monastic community in Russia.

I was only able to take one picture in the church in which St. Sergius' relics are, before I was told that was against the rules.

Icon of the Trinity near the relics of St. Sergius

One of the big differences between visiting the Lavra in 2007 and doing so in 2019 was the huge number of Chinese tourists there. There were several tour groups that even had something like regimental banners to help the people keep track of their group. The reason for this uptick in Chinese tourism is that the value of the Ruble is low right now due to the sanctions imposed by the US and EU, and so Chinese people realize that they can get a lot more for their money by vacationing in Russia.

The sign, which has a small Russian text, and a very large Chinese text, repeated 3 times near the entrance of a church, says "Keep Quiet".

One of the many Chinese tour groups.

What a missionary opportunity! I hope the Russian Church is working to make the most of it. I know the book "Every Day Saints" was just published in Chinese, and so hopefully, this is so.

Among the many saints whose relics we were able to venerate was St. Maxim the Greek.

There are more churches in the Lavra than we could visit, but the main church is the church of the Dormition.

While at the Lavra, I had a list of things I needed to get for my parish, and so we went on a bit of shopping spree. There is no better place to buy quality liturgical items at an amazing price than in Russia.

We had a very nice lunch, at one of the cafes there, and then went to see the Moscow Theological Academy. Fr. Sergei is working on a doctorate from Oxford, but in his spare time, he is working on a seminary degree from Kursk Theological Seminary, and his thesis adviser there was Fr. Pavel Lizgunov, who recently was made the vice rector (or provost) of Moscow Theological Academy. Fortunately, he was allowed to continue to be his thesis adviser, despite the transfer. So we met with Fr. Pavel, and then he arranged for a seminarian to give us a tour of the Academy, including its very substantial museum.

Myself, Fr. Sergei Baranov, and Fr. Pavel Lizgunov. The portrait is of St. Philaret of Moscow

 The Seminary Church

One of the halls of the Seminary

After the tour, we came back and had tea with Fr. Pavel, and had a very nice visit.

After this we headed back to the train station. We decided to walk it this time. The weather was nice, tough there was still plenty of snow, ice, and slush to contend with. As we trudged up a fairly steep hill, I was a bit embarrassed to see some young woman walk past us, as if it was no big deal.

When we got to the train station, Fr. Sergei pointed out an adult bookstore near the station, which goes to show that Russia is not a spiritual never-never land. The Church certainly is getting stronger, but there remain many who are indifferent to the Church, unfortunately.

The train we took back was nearly as new or as nice as the one we took in the morning, but it was comfortable enough. When we got to Moscow, we picked up my luggage, picked up Fr. Sergei's two daughters, and caught a cab for Fr. Sergei's home. We dropped them off there, and then headed further south to Fr. Sergei's country home.

While on the way we stopped to visit a fairly recently built parish, the Parish of the Life Giving Trinity, in Troitsk, which is in the newly developed suburbs of Moscow. This Church remains until midnight, and has a very active outreach to those living in the areas nearby. They have an upper and lower Church, and a large adult baptistery, which would suggest they are meeting with some success in their efforts.

Then we stopped by a supermarket to pick up some food for dinner, as well as food for our trip to Optina the next day. This supermarket had everything any American supermarket might have, and a few things they do not have have, such as equipment for a home still.

Fr. Sergei's country home was in the direction of Optina, which would put us beyond the traffic in the morning. It was designed by Fr. Sergei himself, and it was a bit like the Batman's Batcave, in terms of its automation. Since he is not there most of the time, he designed it such that he can check on it and make adjustments to heating from anywhere in the world. It was truly amazing. So after dinner, and a very pleasant evening of conversation, we settled down for the night, with the plan of getting up very early the next day, so we could catch the morning services at the Optina Monastery.

To be continued...

2019 Moscow Trip -- Part 1

2019 Moscow Trip -- Part 2

2019 Moscow Trip -- Part 3