Be My Valentine

St-valentine-baptizing-st-lucilla-jacopo-bassanoMy February 2011 editorial for The Path of Orthodoxy:

Americans seem to take little notice of Saints. And when they do they end depicting them as cartoon characters. On St. Patrick’s Day, for instance, we’re bombarded with silly leprechauns while matchmaking cupids on St. Valentine’s day are seen flapping their wings. Perhaps this all falls in line with the mindset of many who are of a more practical opinion that the real reason for all the seasons and holidays is for no other reason than to make a profit. Subsequently, we end up obsering commercially sponsored holidays without knowing anything about the actual person whose very name they bare. Eventually the general public, dare I say, begins beliveing more in the myth than the real person.

For starters St. Valentine was not a matchmaker. He was a third century priest during the rule of Roman Emperor Claudius II. The emeperor waged many bloody and unpopular military campaigns. According to one legend, when he encountered difficulties in finding volunteers to go to war he blamed it on the fact that men did not want to leave their loves and families behind. In response to this the emperor canceled all marriages in Rome. But the good priest Valentine, not heeding the royal decree, continued marrying couples in secret. Word spread that, amidst a strict ban, there was a priest who dared defy the emperor. Eventually it even reached the emperor’s ears and he sent his men to find this Valentine and have him arrested. According to medieval lore, when St. Valentine was imprisoned he wrote to the daughter of the jailer, who had become his friend, and signed the note “from your Valentine”. During the trial the emperor demanded that Valentine renounce his faith, which he naturally refused. Thus, he was beaten by clubs and beheaded. His martyrdom, then, was not so much as a result of him secretly marrying couples as it was his refusal to obey the emperor. That is to say, he was martyred because he was obedient to Christ and His Gospel.

Yet I suppose the real question regarding St. Valentine’s Day should be – is it Orthodox? Strictly speaking the answer would be , no. In fact, in Russia Patriarch Alexei II of blessed repose helped spread the celebration of Ss. Pyotr and Fevronia on July 8 (the day of married love and happiness) to overshadow Valentine’s Day, which the Russian church sees “as purely a commercial holiday that promotes promiscuity.” Also, February 14 is the day we commemorate St. Tryphon the martyr according to the Old Calendar. Although it’s not as popular as St. Nicholas or St. George, it is the Krsna Slava of a number of Serbian families. Yet, even though many Serbs know very well of St. Tryphon Day they are also quite aware of the fact that it is the international “day of lovers”. Indeed, St. Valentine’s Day has seemingly spread worldwide, and by that I mean the exchanging of Valentine’s and not the commemoration of the Christian martyr.

If I may impart my most humble opinion, I honestly think there is little harm in buying a box of candy or a dozen roses on this day that the commercial world has clearly highjacked. But this doesn’t mean we forfeit our faith as well. After all, this holiday, regardless of how much it’s drifted from the original, traces its roots to a Christian man, a priest named Valentine, who more than anything else expressed his love for Christ. When we set out on that day to affectionately find that one who will “be my Valentine”, hopefully we will bear in mind that the only true, genuine and pure love can be found in the very same place St. Valentine himself found it – in Christ who is our Lord and Savior.





Space Church

To divinity and beyond: questions over Ukraine space church’s future

by Yuliya SILINA
Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky, Ukraine (AFP) Feb 7, 2019

H/T: hereFD9AEA21-9002-489D-84C7-29A0A7A2DDD2_w1200_r1_s

Inside a traditional Orthodox church topped with a gold cross, instead of icons, visitors can see a lunar rover and the helmet of the first man in space Yuri Gagarin.

The wooden church in central Ukraine is one of thousands of buildings that were repurposed or simply destroyed during an anti-religion campaign in the Soviet era.

But now some believers are asking whether it’s time for the blue and grey painted structure to be returned to the Church, especially as Ukraine is undergoing a religious revival.

Last month the country created its own Orthodox Church in a historic break with the Russian Orthodox Church, against a backdrop of its ongoing war with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 people.

“Today, when it is no longer forbidden to pray and believe in God, the church must be used as a place of worship,” said priest Mykhaylo Yurchenko, from the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church who serves in one of the nearby churches.

Museum staff say clerics have visited and even tried out the acoustics, but there are no plans to reconsecrate it.

“The museum was founded in the 1970s,” said Sergiy Volkodav, its 37-year-old chief curator.

“It happened when space flights were wildly popular and every boy dreamed of becoming a cosmonaut,” he said, standing beside a spacesuit worn by cosmonaut Vyacheslav Zudov for a spacewalk in 1976.

Built in 1891, the Church of Saint Paraskeva houses over 450 exhibits, including a scarlet training parachute belonging to Gagarin, a collection of portraits of him and other personal items of the cosmonaut whose historic 1961 space flight made him a Soviet icon.

The museum is part of a vast outdoor ethnographic complex, located in Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky, a small town some 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Kiev.

– ‘As cold as in space’ –

Soviet anti-religious propaganda used images of space exploration to persuade people that God did not exist.

The Soviets also put some former churches to ideological use such as opening a museum of atheism in a cathedral in Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg.

Some other churches were converted into planetariums.

Volkodav said that, in opening a space museum in a church, the Soviet authorities’ intention was not necessarily to mock religion.

They simply chose a building that could display large exhibits that include a model rocket several metres (feet) high, he said.

Some, like Volkodav as well as priests and other locals, argue that the creation of the museum in fact saved the church from destruction.

It formerly stood in a Cossack village that was deliberately flooded to build a vast reservoir in the 1960s.

The church was one of the few buildings to be painstakingly dismantled and moved to a new location.

One of those who lived in the village, Borys Stolyarenko, a 60-year-old mechanic, recalls services being held there in the early 1960s.




Another wonderful surprise from Inter Varsity Press, Embracing Contemplative Prayer. Looks very interesting. Glancing through I came upon this snippet of reality:

“We are not short on contemplation as a culture, but what is absent is the contemplation of God”.

Very true. Contemplation is the discipline that belongs most in paradise and can very well be practiced in this life. We are too busy, however, contemplating and thinking about base things – stupid things, that don’t really have much meaning: sports, politics, gossip…..

Look forward to reading and blogging about this.

First American Convert

From here

Google the name “Lucy Ludwell” and chances are that one of the first search results you will get refers to “colonial ghosts.” Walk into a shop in Colonial Williamsburg and mention the name “Ludwell” and you’re likely to hear about “Mad Lucy Ludwell.” Unfortunately, you won’t hear much about the real human being who lived some of her final years in Colonial Williamsburg’s Ludwell-Paradise House.

At a time when efforts to understand and sympathize with “personality types” and mental illness are growing, it seems that Lucy Ludwell’s fate has been cruelly sealed as, simply, “Mad Lucy” or even “Looney Lucy.” But who was Lucy Ludwell, really?

Lucy Ludwell Paradise was a Virginia native who grew up largely in London prior to the American Revolution. She and her Anglo-Greek polyglot husband, John Paradise, were friends and correspondents with famous Americans such as Thomas Jefferson and John and Abigail Adams. What’s more, John Paradise was arguably the first naturalized citizen of the new United States. Finally, as the youngest daughter of Philip Ludwell III, the first known American convert to Orthodox Christianity, Lucy was an Orthodox Christian whose faith is well documented.