Art and Faith

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Pavel Fedotov. “I am a Cavalier Now!”. 1846

Filed under: 19th century,domestic,fine art,humour,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

“I am a Cavalier Now!” An Official the Morning after Receiving His First Decoration (Pavel Fedotov, 1846)

“BREAKFAST!” (In the peremptory voice of the newly promoted)

“Coming dear!” (With sweetness, not at all impressed by the events of the previous evening)

“I… SAID… BREAKFAST!” (With all the hauteur of a lower-level functionary noticed by his superior)

(Uncontrollable giggles at the foibles of her hung-over husband)

(Drawing himself to his full height and pointing to his new medal pinned to his robe) “I AM A CAVALIER NOW!”

(Shaking her head, she comes over, and kisses his head) “Of course… I forgot…” (Dissolves into healthy laughter)

We are all familiar with this scene. We have all met those who received a promotion, raise, or commendation, and it went to their head. To say that such is treated with unrelenting and hearty mockery and hilarity is only the simple truth. “I remember where you came from, Nikifor Yefimovich!” (hearty guffaws and shaking of head always accompany this statement) A similar “type” is the neophyte who puts on airs. One sees this very frequently amongst recent Anglo-Saxon converts to Orthodoxy. I must add that most such converts find the current atmosphere and culture of the church to their liking, and they are not being addressed here.

We have seen it all too many times. Someone who has been in the church for only a year or so starts quoting the canons and Fathers “as though they were their friends” (as one of my friends memorably put it). I call such a phenomenon “boom go the canons”. People with no knowledge or experience of the lived church tradition start telling all and sundry how to run things based on their unguided reading. It is as ludicrous as a toddler in soiled nappies attempting to lecture at the MDA. Well, we all know what to do with wayward children. One gives them a bath, changes their nappies, puts them in their jammies, and sends them to bed (with a story, glass of milk, and a kiss, of course). In Russia, there has been much trouble with this as people are coming back to the faith. It is called “young eldership”. There, the established priests and bishops intervene, and pull these smarkachi and salguni down to earth for their own good (and to release the people from their ridiculous notions).

Here in America, many recent converts have been promoted too quickly (for it takes at least five years for the faith to sink roots), or they have started to write on the faith before they have acquired a sense of spiritual maturity. This has led to much of the silliness bedevilling the Church at present. One such has even divided the faithful into “convert” and “cradle” Orthodox. How ludicrous! The real distinction is between “believers” and “unbelievers”. Frederica Matthewes-Green boasts in one of her books how one of her spiritual guides was a Uniate. A Uniate! I am against nastiness or mean-spiritedness in any form, and I am against persecuting anyone for their faith. Nevertheless, Uniates are not Orthodox, and we should never take them as exemplars in the faith. Still others quote the canons in poor translations. Fr Alexander Lebedeff said some twenty-odd years ago (in speaking of the Brookline schism), “They don’t know an ecclesiastical court from a tennis court” (hear, hear! bully for Fr Alexander!).

What is sad is that the “cavalier” in the painting is better off than these sorts. His decoration is at least real, and is probably the recognition of loyal service (at the least). The others… best not to go there. Simply recognise that a good deal of Internet writing is by such sorts, and do act accordingly.

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