Sunday, November 30, 2008


On November 30, 2008, I was Chrismated a member of the Orthodox Church in America as Arseny Pavel Kovalenko by Father John Hennies of St. Dimitri of Rostov Mission Parish in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It felt like a full circle generational coming together of my father's baptism in the Russian Orthodox Church as an infant in Melitopol, Ukraine in 1903.

I chose the name "Arseny Pavel" in remembrance of two Russian Orthodox priests of the Soviet era whose exemplary lives and writings impacted me most. Father Arseny, priest and prisoner, is the single most convincing example of a Christ-like life that I have ever read. Most transformative of all was his mode of confession: he had that rare gift of seeing into the soul and spirit of people and loving them unconditionally, whatever their station or flaws, as did Jesus. His life is reflected by a cloud of witnesses whose lives were permanently changed.

Father Pavel Florensky exemplified an integrity, intellect and courage that also reflected the life of Jesus. And he paid for it with his own life when he was executed by the KGB in 1937. His final work Iconostasis, written in 1922, is a must read for any serious scientific mind. I would not be surprised that Fr. Pavel played a key role in the transformation of Soviet leadership that evolved the concepts of glasnost and perestroika and which led to the near bloodless transformation of the USSR.

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