Friday, July 30, 2010

Ukrainian Orthodox struggle

Week in Review: Russian patriarch visit sparks protests in Ukraine
A handful of nationalist Ukrainian protestors were arrested on July 26 after being prohibited from staging a protest against the visit to Ukraine of Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.

July 31, 2010
Week in Review: Russian patriarch visit sparks protests in Ukraine
Yesterday at 22:52 | Mark Rachkevych
Freedom of assembly took another blow in Ukraine as a court banned protests against the visit to Ukraine by Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Demonstrations went ahead anyway on July 26 in Kyiv as Ukrainian nationalists protested against the pastor‘s week-long visit to Ukraine, which ended on July 28.

Ukrainian police detained eight activists during the protest.

Chanting “Down with the Moscow pope!“ and “Long live Ukraine!,“ dozens of activists gathered at one of Kyiv’s central squares as Patriarch Kirill visited the Saint Sophia Cathedral.

Relations between Russia and western neighbor Ukraine have improved since the Moscow-friendly Viktor Yanukovych was elected president in February. But anti-Russian sentiment remains strong in some parts of the country.

Moreover, many citizens feel the new Ukrainian leader has tilted the country too close to Russia’s orbit of influence, while waging a Putin-style crack down on democratic and media freedoms.

Many Ukrainians refuse to recognize Russia‘s authority over Orthodox Christianity, a dominant religion in both countries, and accuse Moscow of blocking an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church from gaining international acceptance.

The Orthodox Church in Ukraine has been divided since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 into two patriarchates, with some bishops declaring themselves independent of Moscow.

Russia‘s top clergy have prevented the world-wide Orthodox hierarchy from recognizing an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) headed by Patriarch Filaret, which claims to have 14 million believers in Ukraine.


On August 30, 2010, Eugene Kovalenko (aka Arseny Pavel) said...

This conflict is shameful! Surely the Orthodox tradition in Ukraine and elsewhere can exemplify spiritual transformation and growth, rather than ecclesiastical combat!  My Ukrainian-born father once said that in the days before the Revolution when the Orthodox Church held the impotent Tsarist government by it's throat, if two Russians met together to discuss politics they would represent 5 political parties! ;)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Commentary on "Letter to Eugene England"

Event: 1 February 1966
Updated: November 2, 2006

Letter to Eugene England

Gene: re-entry?
Closing scenes
The work’s begun.
Wanting everything to know;
Knowing too much to tell.
Listening inside
For what will one day
Come outside.

Wanting to tell,
To share,
To offer.

Refused with smiles
And frowns:
Endured by those
Whose words claim knowing.

Tired inside
But wiser out.
Streams of words
Are turning into trickles
While glances take more place
And I become a serpent
With slits for eyes
To those once close.

But were they close in heart?
I think it no,
Else they would not have
Seized the Sign:
Usurped my place.

Where is the Red Man
That I should sing?
Why Columbia in dream?

She is my friend
But fears my love;
But why?
Because she fears her own?

Next in time
Are those of Rodina.
Then to Judah
And last the princely line.
Who knows these mysteries
And destinies
With certainty?
Who really knows
The face of God
Or unseen world?

Friend, I seek you truly.
Are you inside
And tired with me?
But what is my wish?
To serve right now.
But be specific:
Get to work
And win that place and time
To build for new emerging age.

Songs will rend the air
While hearts unite
To leap ahead
Of desolation coming.

And we will walk to Zion
Through its ruins. 

Santa Monica 
1 Feb 66 
(Op. 16)

Commentary on Letter to Eugene England. [A response to England family's request for my contribution to their 2006 memorial project about their father, one of my closest friends.]

Dear Rebecca. This is the last item in my mind for adding to your “Remembering Eugene England” project. It is now more than 40 years since I wrote this “poem” as a letter to your dad. I don’t now recall if I ever sent it to him, in which case you would have it somewhere.

The time was January 1966. Dialogue: A Journal for Mormon Thought was in utero, and I was living in a Santa Monica garage of a new found friend whom I’d recently met at Big Sur Hot Springs (eventually Esalen Institute). My new friend’s name was Russell Pratt, a descendant of one of the Pratt brothers Parley or Orson, but not LDS. We hit it off as kindred souls at that mystical place in a northern California coastal forest. Only a few weeks earlier I had quit the Church after having become homeless, family-less, jobless, reputation-less and almost friendless. [See my 2006 SL Sunstone Symposium paper Annealing and Healing].

I say “almost friendless” because your dad never faltered as my friend, as his letters to me, now in your hands, reveal. He was a beacon of light and I wrote this “letter-poem” after having just met Clifford Cummings, a member of the Pasadena stake presidency. I don’t recall how or why we met, but Cliff’s attitude reminded me of Gene’s. I dimly recall that we met as fellow scientists at a company called Electro-Optical, a spin off from Cal Tech or JPL. I was looking for a job and he was an executive for that company. I don’t recall how I became aware of his being LDS, but he urged me to reconsider my decision to quit the Church. I began to do just that.

Hence the first line in the poem: “Gene: re-entry?” I wanted to report my thinking to Gene, but became confused whether I could communicate meaningfully with him—or whether he would believe me.  He would often appear in my dreams, which accounts for the line “Friend, I seek you truly. Are you inside and tired with me?” Although he was my contemporary, he was also my mentor—and disciplinarian father.

So, here is my letter trying to tell him something of what had been happening in my life since we last talked on the phone the previous August and he expressed concern for what I was telling him regarding what had been happening to me that summer. He was primarily concerned with my “pride”. This “letter” therefore is addressing Gene’s concern--trying to say something substantive, but guarded and using provocative images: “… I become a serpent with slits for eyes to those once close…”

Most of this letter is trying to say something about what I was seeing within myself in those days, whether as a visionary or a crackpot. Hard to tell, isn’t it?

“Next in time are those of Rodina...” clearly refers to a long-time search for my Slavic roots [“Rodina” is Russian for homeland], which was completed in 1995 when my brother found our dad’s long lost family in his old home town of Melitopol, Ukraine. This discovery completed that search. The next year I spent 3 weeks in Ukraine getting personally acquainted with all those relatives, and we have been in contact ever since.

“Then to Judah and last the princely line.”  The time sequence is out of whack here. I don’t know about the “Judah” part, but the “princely line” refers to a revelatory experience I’d had the previous July 25, which began my confrontation with Church authority, which is why I’d called your dad one late night that previous August. That revelatory experience was a mind-blowing surprise response to my prayer to know what lay behind the then policy of the Church regarding the Negro. Because of what had been happening to me the previous few weeks, it never occurred to me that the Lord would not answer my question. In the document that came out of me that early July morning, the word “priesthood” is never mentioned.

“But what is my wish?”  What was my most earnest desire then? “To serve…”
Obviously I was not a very effective servant in the outer world. Your dad was the example to me of the kind of service I valued most.

“…build for new emerging age”.  I’d like to think that Dialogue is a significant cornerstone of this “emerging age” and that the uniting of hearts is exemplified in your Eugene England Memorial activities. Gene was an effective worker in the exterior society, while I had been relegated to the inner world and shadow of our common culture.

“And we will walk to Zion through its ruins…”  God only knows what this means! Stuff is still pending after 9/11 and who knows what or where this “Zion” is? Perhaps it is still somewhere in our cultural shadow--our Zarahemla?!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New monks from the Monastery

Event: Sunday 18 July 2010
Updated: 23 July 2010

Hiermonk John Anderson celebrated the Divine Liturgy on Sunday.

In attendance were Monks Silouan and Sebastian from the Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael in nearby CaƱones. Both monks came from the Monastery in California, which was founded by Metropolitan Jonah. Fr. Silouan is acting Superior of the monastery at present. His companion Monk Sebastian will be returning to California later this summer.

I had the pleasure to inquire about Fr. Silouan's spiritual journey into Orthodoxy. He had first found a Hindu path, which led him to the Eastern Rite Catholic Church. He finally came to Orthodoxy when he serendipitously met Fr. Jonah in Southern California, who invited him to his monastery in Northern California. It was an immediate recognition for Fr. Silouan and he knew he had finally found what he had been looking for. Little did he know at the time that his new mentor would soon rise to become the metropolitan!

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Posted: Sunday, 4 July 2010
Updated: 14 July 2010

While talking to brother Dimitri in the church study after Sunday's Reader Liturgy on the Fourth of July, I received a phone call that took my breath away! Of all the calls least expected but most dearly hoped and prayed for, it was from my heretofore estranged son, Michael! He called me to announce the birth of his first child, a son.

I had much to repent of during this call, all of which went unspoken. Such words seemed out of place as I heard my son's voice and his wonderful disclosure. Most of all it was the sensitive, thoughtful manner in which he honored his father by the phone call before sending out the general announcement to family and friends. This was most healing for me.

Bless you, Michael. And bless you, Michael's dear wife Maris and my newest, most welcome grandson!

3 Ne 22:1

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Last Station

Posted: July 2, 2010
Updated:  July 4, 2010
Leo Tolstoy in his last years

This past week while browsing in the local Film Festival video store and coffee shop, I came across an important film released last year in 2009 that I had not even heard of. How could I have missed it, when none other than luminaries Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer star in it!? Plummer plays the role of Leo Tolstoy in his last years in the early 1900s and Mirren plays Tolstoy's jealous and troubled wife Sofia.

See here for film details.

The reason why this film is important to me in this Orthodox blog series is that it was to the Tolstoy Foundation that my father applied in the 1930s for help in finding his relatives in Ukraine, after coming to this country in 1922 as a war refugee from the Russian Revolution. Somewhere in our family archives, either in the records kept by my brother Virgil or my daughter Katya, there should be correspondence between Dad and this foundation. As I mentioned elsewhere about Dad's concern, he eventually realized that his inquiry may have compromised the safety of his relatives during those terrible years and worried about this misstep for decades. (See here for Dad's and my last conversation about this concern.)

This then brings up the question of what all this has to do with the Orthodox Church and my part in it. For the same reasons that Tolstoy rejected Russian Orthodoxy back in the late 1800s, but without the profound understanding of Tolstoy, Dad rejected it in his teenage years during and after the Russian Revolution. The Russian Orthodox Church was corrupt and oppressive in those days and thoughtful Russians like Tolstoy and his followers were in reaction to it, convinced that the teachings of Jesus had been co-opted by the institution. This is, of course, an old story, which might be applied to any institutionalized "Christian" church these days, whatever legitimacy they claim by tradition or revelation.

As far as the world-wide Orthodox institutional church is concerned these days, there continues to be a hierarchical struggle for power, as evidenced by the recent conference of bishops in New York. Fortunately there are now a few courageous voices who are well enough positioned to challenge arbitrary or ambitious ecclesiastical decisions. For example, when Metropolitan Jonah (of the Orthodox Church in America) was specifically NOT invited to participate in this conclave of Orthodox bishops by the Constantinople Patriarch, who claims traditional ecumenical authority for all Orthodoxy, the bishop from Boston, who had organizational responsibilities for the conference, specifically DID invite Jonah to attend in his rank as a fellow bishop, but to take his seat at the lowest ecclesiastical rung. This Jonah did without resistance, complaint or resentment, which set an example equal to that taught by Jesus and which won the approval of the rest of those gathered. Although this was a "small step for man", it was a HUGE step for the international institutional church of any denomination!

I wonder what Tolstoy, or my father for that matter, would have thought about this remarkable development.

There are other issues in the institutional church, especially the OCA, one of which involves the laity who are often ignored, dismissed or marginalized by ecclesiastics these days. I look forward to the day when the OCA installs an office to respond to any parishioner who petitions the hierarchy for any reason. At present, such petitions are more often ignored. An exception to this is the Q&A section on the OCA website, which is generally responsive and is a good precedent.