Every time I find myself in the Monastery of St. Mary in Techirghiol, I am filled with trepidation at the thought of the multitude of my sins, known and unknown. And my first desire is to go to the cell of the great spiritual father Arsenie (Papacioc), to at least take his blessing. And when you are honored with the great privilege of speaking with him, time begins to take on some kind of special dimension.
How does a monastery that was never closed in the Soviet years and that has raised up abbesses for many convents in various dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church live today? Does it preserve the inheritance left by former abbess Mother Barbara? We spoke with the current Pukhtitsa mother superior, Abbess Philareta (Kalacheva) on these questions and on monastic life in general.
—It has always seemed to me that no one has really treated these remains seriously. Just as people were negligent toward the Tsar during his lifetime, so also now there is a rather haphazard way of dealing with his supposed remains. As a result, mistrust has arisen in peoples’ awareness as to what has actually been preserved.
Wherever there are people, there is protest. We always protest everywhere: at school, at work, in the kitchen, the government, during travel, in the hospital, when we are both young and old. We protest against our relatives, neighbors, bosses, presidents, emperors, patriarchs, bishops, summer and winter, rain and drought, the traffic light when it’s red, and yes, that’s right, even when it’s green.
What difficulties do we have in the monastery? For me the most difficult is when you speak to people, pilgrims, about salvation, and they don’t listen or don’t believe—they don’t want to be saved. And then I pray that the Lord would open their souls.
"Fr. Kirill lived according to the Gospel, unswervingly fulfilling the commandments of Christ. He found a Gospel in a building destroyed by shelling during the war, when death was hovering all around. Thus the Lord called him. He carried the Gospel with him and read it, and every word of Christ remained in his heart until the end of his days. In this way the desire to devote his whole life to God was born."
Last July I sat down with Fr. Silouan (Brown) to ask him about his upcoming mission trip to Kenya, on behalf of the charitable organization “Orthodox Africa” he founded as a way for the global Orthodox community to be able to participate in the furtherance of God’s Kingdom by providing a means for the average layman who may not be able to travel to faraway lands, to participate in global missionary work. The organization works with several mission and shelters in Kenya. In this follow-up interview, Fr. Silouan shares his thoughts and reflections on the trip, how it compared to expectations, what he learned about how to better serve the people of Africa, and about the bond of Orthodox Christians worldwide, rooted in our common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The first monastery built by Elder Ephraim in America was the women’s monastery of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in Saxonburg, PA. Elder Ephraim founded it in 1989. Pilgrims meet here a peaceful corner of nature, where you can forget for a time your worldly cares and anxieties and you can immerse yourself in a world of silence and prayer. The sisters of the monastery labor purely for the prayer of the heart and mind. Here and there you here: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” The Byzantine singing in church during the services leaves pilgrims in awe.
Representative of the Synodal Information Department V. R. Legoida speaks on the importance of this great saint for the establishment of Russian statehood, the development of Russian monasticism and Church institutions in the context of modern Church-state relations.
Schema-Archimandrite Iliy (Nozdrin), spiritual father of His Holiness, ascetically struggled on Mt. Athos for more than ten years in one of the sketes of St. Panteleimon Monastery—the Old Russikon. Namely there, at the mill just a few decades earlier Venerable Silouan the Athonite carried out his obedience. In 1967 the book of his life and teachings became a spiritual guide for the now-revered elder, then novice Alexei of the Pskov Caves Monastery
"In this difficult period Elder Ephraim had so much grace that he exuded a sweet fragrance. Everything the elder touched began to sweetly smell. When he confessed children, covering their heads with his epitrachelion, their hair had this fragrance for a few days. If he touched napkins they began to emit this fragrance. His clothes and skufias emitted the fragrance. The stronger were the temptations, the stronger this fragrance was felt."
I had the great pleasure of catching up with Fr. Alexis recently in Kiev where he was on pilgrimage, and especially of attending services together at the Kiev Caves Lavra. While there we also found some time to chat about his life, work, struggles, and joys as a young priest serving in a small mission parish in the American south.
"The Kingdom is taken by violence and force. That implies to me in a lot of ways that we can’t sit on the sidelines as passive observers. We have to engage. You can’t sit by and wait for somebody else to do it. That’s what Orthodox Africa is for me—I saw a gap where there was a need and I asked myself what I could do, and Orthodox Africa is what I can do, so I went out and did it. It’s an invitation to everyone out there to get off their couches, and even if they can’t personally go travel and be a missionary, here’s one way they can be involved. Everyone has to be involved in some way in the furtherance of the Kingdom of God. Produce some good fruit."
June 1, 2016 the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church decided not to take part in the “Holy and Great Council” on Crete. The liberal Bulgarian media saw in it “the hand of Moscow.” Metropolitan Gabriel (Dinev) of Lochev reflects on what dogmatic considerations stood behind their decision and why it could not have been made under Moscow influence, how Bulgarians relate to Russians and Greeks, why the Bulgarians agreed at the preliminary meetings to the principle of consensus for making decisions, and how to relate to the World Council of Churches and ecumenism.
On May 24 the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the Equal-to-the-Apostles and teachers of the Slavs, who are considered the creators of the Slavonic alphabet and literary language. Much from the history of their lives and mission remains unknown to this day. For more on these holy brothers, we present the following interview with Anatoly Arkadyevich Turilov, Senior Researcher at the Department of Medieval History at the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Twenty years ago a martyric death for the faith claimed a soldier of the Russian border guards, Evgeny Rodionov: he was killed on May 23, 1996 by militants near the village of Bamut in Chechnya for refusing to remove his cross and convert to Islam. And before that he endured a long captivity and cruel tortures … On the anniversary of the murder of Evgeny the Warrior, remembering him and his mother’s search for her son, we spoke with her about responsibility, the indifference of the local politicians, military honor, and remembrances of him.
You asked about the family. Family is a cell, a small part of our community. The condition and strength of the family determines the condition of society. The weakening of the family threatens dire consequences. It's all the loss of morality, the loss of the conscience, the loss of awareness, the loss of an orientation, of that which is important in life.
What is prayer? Prayer is conversation with God. We nourish ourselves every day. We maintain our own physical existence until the last minute of our lives. But true spiritual life is beyond the scope of this world—it is our relationship with God, and it happens through prayer.