Art and Faith

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Vasili Nesterenko. A Portrait of Aleksei, Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias

Filed under: Christian,fine art,human study,Orthodox,portrait,religious,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

A Portrait of Aleksei, Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias

Vasili Nesterenko



Vasili Nesterenko was one of the artists who worked on the reconstruction of the Khram Spasitelya (Cathedral of Christ the Saviour) in Moscow. The church was rebuilt on the exact spot where it existed before it was dynamited during the Persecutions in 1934. The rebuilding of this grand temple is a metaphor for the resurrection of Russia. Although the healing isn’t yet complete, it’s well under way, and one of the signs of it was the fact that President Putin gave his personal aeroplane for the transportation of the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God on a world tour to celebrate the recent reconciliation between the branches of the Russian Orthodox community. He said that although he rules Russia, the Mother of God reigns over the homeland. Who can disagree with such simply-stated truth?

The current primate of the Patriarchate of Moscow and all the Russias is His Holiness Aleksei Rediger. He isn’t a “pope” in the Western sense, he’s the sign of the unity of the Holy Synod, the bishops, clergy, and laity. We don’t consider him infallible. He can do nothing without the approval of the Synod, and all of the bishops (even of the smallest dioceses) are his equal in authority, although not in honour (unlike some diaspora hierarchs I could name, but shall not). Vladyki Aleksei was born in Estonia in 1929 in a very religious family (his father became a priest later in life). Although his last name is German (not uncommon in Russia, by the way!), he only learned German in adulthood. Go figure! Ordained a priest in 1950, he served parishes in Estonia (then part of the USSR). Vladyki Aleksei was consecrated a bishop in 1961, serving in both Tallinn and Leningrad, eventually reaching the rank of Metropolitan. In 1990, Vladyki Aleksei was elected Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias by the Holy Synod.

His tenure has been marked by the painful period following the collapse of the USSR (truly, a second smuta!) and the renaissance of Russia under President Putin. Vladyki Aleksei’s a forward-looking hierarch who keeps himself free of excessive government entanglement and he encourages all the pastors of the church to use modern means to reach the Russian people. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that he’s attacked the traditional worship or theology of the church (as, sadly, some in the diaspora have done), it means that he advocates that the church realise that it lives in the 21st century, and it should act accordingly. For example, there are priests in the Urals who have set up a rock band with the blessing of the church. Need I mention the fruitful collaboration of Hieromonk Roman and the popular singer Zhanna Bichevskaya? The church in Russia is facing our contemporary age and its problems with the traditional faith undivided, yet it uses the latest methods to spread this message. We should do likewise, and end all experimentation with the liturgy and end all theological dabbling with heterodox currents (as some in a certain seminary are doing). Vladyki Aleksei is particularly close to one of greatest living elders in Orthodoxy, Mother Varvara of Pyukhtitsa. He insisted that she become an abbess, and laid the panagia around her neck and placed the staff in her hand. She’s a great influence on Vladyki, and is living proof that Orthodoxy does not discriminate against women in any way. Mother Varvara and Vladyki Aleksei also have a deep human friendship besides their spiritual relationship. Our hierarchs aren’t cardboard cut-outs, they’re human beings with the same joys and sorrows as we have. We aren’t Romans with a deified pope.

May God bless Vladyki Aleksei and grant him many years! May his vision of church unity come to be, and may God confound those fighting against it.


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