Art and Faith

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Unknown Artist. Royal Martyr Tsar St Nikolai Aleksandrovich the Passionbearer. undated (2000s?)

Royal Martyr Tsar St Nikolai Aleksandrovich the Passionbearer

Unknown artist

undated (2000s?)



There is an infallible test that shows you the true standing of this or that Orthodox institution or person. Those who honour the Tsar Martyr openly and venerate him are true Orthodox Christians. Those who denigrate or minimise him, those who slander him or call him dysfunctional, and those who pass over his podvig in silence are not Orthodox Christians at all. Reflect well on the fact that Aleksandr Schmemann denigrated the Tsar Martyr, as did (and does SVS). They DO love Rowan Williams, the official Episcopal Church , and Robert Taft! A word to the wise, eh…


Monday, 12 January 2009

Yuri Lysov. Moses. 2007


Yuri Lysov



One thing that’s always gotten under my skin are those sorts who attempt to “explain away” miracles or who smirkily dismiss them (I’m not talking of people outside of the Church, I’m talking of overeducated pseudo-intellectuals inside the Church). As for me, I believe that Moses parted the Red Sea. Why not? If you’re a believer, you agree that God’s the Master of the Universe, and that He can suspend its laws (in a greater or lesser way) if He so desires. As for us being “better informed” than the ancients, that’s airy and mendacious nonsense. Those folks may not have known the scientific ins-and-outs, but they had a good-sense grasp of how the world operated, backed by copious observation and acceptance of legitimate tradition. In short, their mothers didn’t raise any fools! If ancient tradition reports a miracle, I tend to believe it, unless there’s disproving evidence (no, Aleksandr Schmemann calling St Basil the Blessed clinically insane without a shred of proof isn’t disproving evidence, to give an instance).

My God can part the Red Sea and raise the dead! Can yours?


Sunday, 13 July 2008

Mikhail Nesterov. Étude for “A Wounded Soldier”. 1915

Étude for “A Wounded Soldier”

Mikhail Nesterov



This is a soldier of the tsarist army, wounded in World War I. I find this picture to be a wonderful allegory of our Church in America at present. It’s wounded, it’s weakened; oddly enough, by those claiming to be friends. However, one can see that the soldier isn’t despairing; he hasn’t lost hope. Neither have we. People such as Alexander Schmemann thrust a bayonet into our vitals; yet, we still live on, and we’re ready to fight again. In fact, there’s a deepening cleavage between we “ethnic” Orthodox and some recent converts (one need only look at the writings of Joseph Honeycutt and Frederica Matthewes-Greene to see the difference). We wish to “go home”, whereas they wish to “play at Church” and try to use the Church as a laboratory for their notional ideas. That sounds much like the Catholic lefties of the 60s (no mistake, for Schmemann was friendly with radical Catholics). We’re wounded, yes, but we wish to rejoin our proper regiment and fight under our traditional banners. As for those who wish to do otherwise, I say, “Go, go in peace, and don’t bother the Church. The rest of us are going home where we belong”.


Thursday, 29 May 2008

A New Head of Steam…

A Portrait of E G Mamontova Reading

Ilya Repin



Over the last few months, I seemed to run out of “inspiration” for new postings. I didn’t wish to post “empty wind”, nor did I desire to bore anyone with pointless verbiage. Well, I needed some fresh response. I realised that I’d let my reading slide. If there were no new challenges, of course, the well would run dry. Today, I started to read an exciting book on Russian cultural life by Solomon Volkov, The Magical Chorus (ISBN 978-1-4000-4272-2, 2008, $30 hardcover). Volkov’s quite controversial, you must take some of his assertions with a block of salt; I don’t recommend this book for an absolute beginner in the topic (a rank novice should start with Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes, a more balanced work).

However, for those of us with knowledge of the oeuvre and the dramatis personae, it’s a bracing read. Yes, he trots out the old warhorse claim that Rimsky-Korsakov was a flaming atheist. Not so. I wouldn’t call him a conventional believer, but to call him an atheist is going further than the attested facts allow. It often leads to, “Why is he saying THAT?” In short, it gets the creative juices FLOWING. The most interesting observation for us as Orthodox Christians is his short discussion of the émigré intellectual current known as Eurasianism. To put it in its most concise form, this school of thought believed that Russia had a special mission in the world because of its combination of both European and Asian elements. Some of its exponents were secularists, others, such as Georgi Florovsky and Prince Nikolai Troubetzkoy were Orthodox. This is especially important for those in the OCA as Aleksandr Schmemann claimed to be the intellectual protégé and continuer of the work of Florovsky in particular. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Schmemann spent his life distancing himself and his teaching from genuine sources of Russian Orthodoxy. Therefore, how could he be the disciple of Florovsky? I don’t recommend Florovsky to beginners; it’s academic theology, fully understandable only by one who has lived the Orthodox life in its fullness for some time. His work has nothing vital to salvation. There’s nothing wrong in it, just understand that he’s an intellectual talking about the faith, he isn’t an elder speaking from the heart. That being said, if one reads Florovsky and one also reads Schmemann (NOT recommended), the difference between the two becomes obvious with time.

Therefore, be wary when an SVS sort trots out George Florovsky (or G P Fedotov) as intellectual backstops to Schmemann’s fancies. I can assure you that these two very Orthodox scholars would’ve blanched at the Renovationism and American phyletism expounded by Schmemann at SVS. Do NOT argue with such sorts, for its counter-productive, but, know what they peddling is pure Hooey. I better keep reading. If I don’t, I’ll go dry again. May God Bless. Bog blagoslovit.


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