1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

The phenomenon of Russian spirituality and Seraphim of Sarov April 19, 2010

Russians are proud to be spiritual people, spirituality is a popular word in there and is being often misused even by politicians. After the communism-era, which I believe itself was in a way very spiritual (because people were motivated by high ideals), the traditional Russian values are back with even more power. Spirituality has been obviously a mass phenomenon in Russia unlike in many other parts of the world. 

Despite this fact, I find it highly interesting that Russia is not famous for its spiritual leaders, the more so there has been not a single world-famous spiritual leader in Russia (let’s say of a great caliber of Zarathustra, Lao Tse, Moses, Mohammad). Apparently there have been several quite powerful saints, but none of them had a nation-wide impact. I wonder where od the roots of Russian spirituality are emerging from? What makes people so desperately seeking for the highest, go beyond materialism, being ready to sacrifice a lot for the truth?… 

Whatever the reason is, Russia gave birth to quite a number of saints that are not well known but yet have been an enlightening example of spirituality. One of the most famous and loved one is Seraphim of Sarov. 

 

 Saint Seraphim of Sarov (Russian: Серафим Саровский) (1759 – 1833),  is one of the most renowned Russian monks and mystics in the Orthodox Church. He is generally considered the greatest of the 19th century startsy (elders) and, arguably, the first. He is remembered for extending the monastic teachings of contemplation, theoria and self-denial to the layperson, and taught that the purpose of the Christian life was to acquire the Holy Spirit 

Seraphim (born Moshnin) was born in 1759 to a merchant family in Kursk. At the age of 10, he became seriously ill. During the course of his illness, he saw the Mother of God in his sleep, who promised to heal him. Several days later there was a religious procession in Kursk with the locally revered miracle-working icon of the Mother of God. Due to bad weather, the procession took an abbreviated route past the house of the Moshnin family. After his mother put Seraphim up to the miracle-working image, he recovered rapidly. While at a young age, he needed to help his parents with their shop, but business had little appeal for him. Young Seraphim loved to read the lives of the saints, to attend church and to withdraw into seclusion for prayer.

At the age of 18, Seraphim firmly decided to become a monk. His mother blessed him with a large copper crucifix, which he wore over his clothing all his life. After this, he entered the Sarov monastery as a novice. From day one in the monastery, exceptional abstinence from food and slumber were the distinguishing features of his life. He ate once a day, and little. On Wednesdays and Fridays he ate nothing. After asking the blessing of his starets (i.e., a spiritual elder), he began to withdraw often into the forest for prayer and religious contemplation. He became severely ill again soon after, and was forced to spend most of the course of the next three years lying down.

St. Seraphim was once again healed by the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Who appeared to him accompanied by several saints. Pointing to the venerable Seraphim, The Holy Virgin said to the apostle John the Theologian: “He is of our lineage.” Then, by touching his side with Her staff, She healed him. 

(more…)

 

Today is Forgiveness Sunday February 13, 2010

This special day is my favorite in the Christian tradition. Having an atheistic background, I have been always deeply touched by the candid Christian Orthodox celebration of “Forgiveness Sunday”.

The last Sunday before Great Lent, is the day when Orthodox Christians remember the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. “Forgiveness Sunday” received this name from the pious custom at Vespers of asking each other’s forgiveness for discourtesy and disrespect. People do so, since in the forthcoming fast they will approach the sacrament of Penance and ask the Lord to forgive their sins, which forgiveness will be granted us only if people themselves forgive each other. “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6.14, 15)”

Since the 90-s when religion slowly started getting its position back with the peoples of Russia, the tradition of Forgiveness Sunday came back. According to it, you can ask forgiveness of every person you meet this day, but especially people whom you might have really done some harm, or just your relatives and friends (we never know if by chance we could have hurt anyone!). (more…)

 

Russians are the most humorous people in the world February 7, 2010

Sounds unbelievable, right :) Typically, in the Western imagination, Russians are sombre people, who live in cold places, dress in grey or brown, drink vodka in shots and rarely smile, much less laugh. I’ve found that much of this image is easy to dispel as an outdated Cold War stereotype. The image problem is exacerbated by the Russian habit of maintaining a poker face in public and a tendency towards, let’s say, a brusque manner. The irony is that Russians actually have a great sense of humour.

Whether you believe it or not, I am going to prove that it is so sharing my own experiences and observations.

HUMOUR AS NEWS

Being myself Russian, I start my day with pretty unusual portion of news. This is  anekdot.ru – a brilliant site where Russian speaking people post their newly invented jokes and real-life funny stories. The charm of it is that reading these jokes, freshly created on the same day or the next day when something happened (in Russia or around  the world) one can get the best update on the situation in a witty perspective. I wonder if there is such a site anywhere in the world? And if it is being used as a kind of a news portal?

FREQUENCY

An average Russians tells from 1 to 5 (some to 10) jokes A DAY! In my whole 12 years of living in Austria I have heard may be 1 or 2 jokes from people here (1 or 2 in 12 years!). I thinks, it’s pretty much same in many places. But Russia is different :)

WHY?

There is a supposition that humor is being used as an “antidepressant” because, as commonly believed, “Russian life is hard.” Indeed, Russian humour is, most often, a self-deprecating and effective weapon against iniquity, injustice and pain, of which Russians have had extra helpings – especially in the last century or so. 

A man is walking down the street with a spear through his chest. His friend runs up and says, “Wow! Does it hurt?”

“Only when I laugh,” comes the reply.

WHAT IS A RUSSIAN JOKE?

The most popular form of Russian humour consists of jokes (анекдоты — anekdoty), which are short stories with a punch line. Typical of Russian joke culture is a series of categories with fixed and highly familiar settings and characters. Surprising effects are achieved by an endless variety of plots and plays on words. (more…)

 

One unknown book by Leo Tolstoy which he himself valued the highest of all his writings January 15, 2010

No, it is not War and Peace; Anna Karenina or Resurrection…This is an almost unknown book by Leo Tolstoy of exceptional value and beauty which, despite author’s great want, has not made it to a bestseller by now.

 

Unfortunately, Leo Tolstoy is less known for his numerous religious writings, which present a challenging and original point of view.These works have been obviously undervalued.

Путь Жизни (Path of Lifeor also translated as A Calendar of Wisdom),  by Leo Tolstoy is considered to be his most important contribution to humanity, the work of his life’s last years. Widely read in prerevolutionary Russia, banned and forgotten under Communism; and recently rediscovered to great excitement, A Calendar of Wisdom is a day-by-day guide that illuminates the path of a life worth living with a brightness undimmed by time. Unjustly censored for nearly a century, it deserves to be placed with the few books in our history that will never cease teaching us the essence of what is important in this world.

The reader will notice that Tolstoy anticipated many of the ideas presented in contemporary books on spirituality, such as the observation that our thoughts determine our lives. Tolstoy began to write this book in 1910, the last year of his life, when he was 82 years old. Given that he began the book in January and completed it in October of the same year, one would think the writing went quickly; but it only seems that way. Tolstoy actually had been developing the themes presented in Path of Life for the last thirty years of his life.

In Path of Life Tolstoy defines how to find continuous happiness in life and how to die without fear. In presenting his views, he cites his own ideas and includes many quotations from an eclectic collection of ancient and modern philosophers and religious figures. The choice of quotations is a unique reflection of Tolstoy’s view of life reached through his ‘dialogue’ with the world’s best religious minds. Tolstoy deliberately marshals a chorus of religious thinkers who voice similar religious insights. By identifying religious themes that are consistent over time and from country to country, Tolstoy seeks to prove their eternal verity. (more…)

 

Leo Tolstoy’s short stories – true pearls! December 6, 2009

Filed under: Russia,spirituality,writing — axinia @ 5:09 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

 

Leo Tolstoy is mostly known for this great works like “War & Peace” or “Anna Karenina”, however he has left many short stories of great wisdom. Let me share with you one here.

THREE HERMITS. 

 An OLD LEGEND CURRENT IN THE VOLGA DISTRICT

‘And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.’ — Matt. vi. 7, 8.
A BISHOP was sailing from Archangel to the Solovétsk Monastery; and on the same vessel were a number of pilgrims on their way to visit the shrines at that place. The voyage was a smooth one. The wind favourable, and the weather fair. The pilgrims lay on deck, eating, or sat in groups talking to one another. The Bishop, too, came on deck, and as he was pacing up and down, he noticed a group of men standing near the prow and listening to a fisherman who was pointing to the sea and telling them something. The Bishop stopped, and looked in the direction in which the man was pointing. He could see nothing however, but the sea glistening in the sunshine. He drew nearer to listen, but when the man saw him, he took off his cap and was silent. The rest of the people also took off their caps, and bowed.

‘Do not let me disturb you, friends,’ said the Bishop. ‘I came to hear what this good man was saying.’

‘The fisherman was telling us about the hermits,’ replied one, a tradesman, rather bolder than the rest.

‘What hermits?’ asked the Bishop, going to the side of the vessel and seating himself on a box. ‘Tell me about them. I should like to hear. What were you pointing at?’

‘Why, that little island you can just see over there,’ answered the man, pointing to a spot ahead and a little to the right. ‘That is the island where the hermits live for the salvation of their souls.’

‘Where is the island?’ asked the Bishop. ‘I see nothing.’

‘There, in the distance, if you will please look along my hand. Do you see that little cloud? Below it and a bit to the left, there is just a faint streak. That is the island.’

The Bishop looked carefully, but his unaccustomed eyes could make out nothing but the water shimmering in the sun. (more…)

 

The Cosmonautics Memorial Museum in Moscow November 15, 2009

My father is  the “sky” person who has always been dreaming about flying as high as possible… Since he could not become a pilot for health reasons,  he became a paratrooper officer and made 2000 jumps with parashute. The space exploration has been fascinating him for ages. I obviously inherited some fo this fascination, since I love airplanes and everything that can take me higher :).

This time when I was visiting my parents in Moscow my father was delighted to show me and my mom the new Space museum. As you can imagine, Russia has something to show in that area…

This museum, the only one of its kind, situated inside an enormous monument to the explorers of the cosmos, is well worth the visit, not least for the nostalgia it should inspire in anyone who grew up in the heady days of the space race. The displays trace the history of space exploration, including the first interplanetary satellite flights, the first dogs in space and man’s journeys to the cosmos.

Let me show you some shots I made inside the museum.

My parents – by the way, they now live just next to the  Zvezdnyi Gorodok “Startown” by Moscow, where all cosmonauts are being trained:

      ——–

We saw an interesting documentary about the history of Space exploration. Juri Gagarin, the first ever human in space:

 his smile is unforgettable!

The typical space costume live:

The clothes cosmonauts wear inside a spaceship:

There’s plenty of fun gadgetry, plus an excellently conceived display explaining how astronauts survive a space flight, all of which should be interesting for children. The food in the space freezer: (more…)

 

My photo-impressions from Moscow in November November 12, 2009

I am back from a short Moscow trip with some images which I took for you.

The quality of images is not that good, but I think you will get an impression of how it is like in Moscow in November – cold, pretty nasty and windy, but still enjoyable :).

It was getting dark rather early, and I was mostly outside during late afternoon, therefore most of the images look like taken at night. In fact it was a daytime (from 3 till 6 p.m.).

LOVE; axinia

 

 
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