While Catholics celebrate Holy Easter, the Orthodox Church enters Holy Week, to live in turn the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus. He does it a week later than the Latinos, according to the different calculations of calendars that sometimes coincide in the celebrations, as will happen next year.
The week is called in different ways, according to more or less ancient liturgical and popular traditions: Great and Holy Week, Hermosa (Krasnaja), Red or ‘Blood’ (cervonaja) and also istinnaja, ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ as in the Latin Ambrosian rite, in which the influence of oriental traditions is more marked. The difference in calendars also made the Orthodox celebrate the Annunciation on April 7, a feast that in the Byzantine rite is also commemorated when it coincides with Easter, accentuating the need for the revelation of the divine mystery.
Now, after more than a terrible year of war and break with the whole world, Russia faces the istina, the authenticity of their spiritual and national life, proclaimed with cannons and missiles to challenge the “lie of the West”. In Soviet times, the Pravda, the “ideological truth” more than the metaphysical and religious truth, which is defined with a higher term. At the time of the Bolshevik revolution, the philosophers of the “renaissance of the Russian idea”, such as Florensky, Berdjaev and Bulgakov, countered the false Pravda of the intelligentsija who supported the revolution, to the true Pravda of the Churchwhich announces the Christian redemption.
The Patriarch of Moscow tries to reaffirm the authenticity of the Russian Orthodox faith, questioned in the rest of the world due to the explicit and unbearable ecclesiastical support for the war, which has raised many doubts, precisely regarding its fidelity to the true Christian tradition. Kirill, born Vladimir Gundjaev, now 77 years old, originally from St. Petersburg, is a man who has traversed the vast mists of state atheism. He is the son and grandson of persecuted priests, but he became a faithful collaborator of all regimes, and has sought by all means to drink from the original sources of Holy Scripture and theology. For many years, he represented the most cultured and “dialogue” soul of the Russian Church, since the days of communism.
On the eve of Holy Week, the Patriarch has published a new book, Easter: Christ has given us eternal life. In it he recounts the festival of festivals, Holy Easter, “in the context of global events” that humanity has been facing in recent years. He raises questions that certainly touch on the authenticity of contemporary Christian experience: how can Christians today build their way of life rightly? How to prepare for the encounter with the risen Saviour? How to respond to the challenges of our time? Kirill tries to provide some answers, reminding that “in the perspective of the eternity that is given to us, even the most dramatic circumstances of our time lose their malevolent force.”
Faced with a personality like that of the Russian patriarch, what is most disconcerting is precisely this attempt to hold together the “malevolent force” and the “perspective of eternity”, the Soviet atheistic ideology and the custody of religious traditions, the imperialist madness of ” Russian world” with the religious revival in the secularized world.
This ambiguity is exactly the opposite of the istina and characterizes many hierarchs of the Russian Church, metropolitans and bishops, who come mainly from monasticism – unlike the simple parish clergy, made up of married men, less conditioned by theories and closer to the sufferings and contradictions of the common people. And it is precisely the prelates of Orthodoxy who serve as models for Russian politicians themselves -from Tsar Putin to the gloomy Lavrov, passing through the drunken Medvedev and the menacing Prigožin-, all of them determined to present a reality different from the one they he sees and lives in his own flesh.
A few days ago, during a homily, the Patriarch commented on the Gospel about power and wealth, in which Jesus tries to convince the disciples that “whoever wants to become great among you must be the servant of all”. Kirill recalled that “man tends to wealth, and with it the plans and purposes of a lifetime are often intertwined… but the Lord does not reject wealth, nor does he reject power, and the two things are often synonymous.” Only that the Gospel message “speaks of something very different”, does not encourage greatness according to human measures, but “must help men who want to be in power, and do not disdain wealth”, to understand that these Things do not automatically lead to a fall into hell: what counts is the way in which the levers of power and money are used.
The spiritual leader of the Russians then explains that today, in a special way, this “higher divine wisdom” must “be taken into account by our people, by our society, by our state.” “Russia has really become a powerful state, capable of responding to the challenges and threats it faces… the people are getting stronger, and many people are getting richer.” That this “does not make us lose our heads, believing that we are bigger than we are.” On the contrary, we must learn to “use wealth for the good of people, because wealth is a gift from God, not owned by the individual.”
Then the “numerous good deeds” of the rich merchants of ancient Russia are recalled, who many times “forgot their own interest, and whose goodness created the economic power of Russia.” Kiev itself, the mother city of Rus’, was born to develop the trade route from the Varyghi to the Greeks, the historical motivation for the birth of the new state at the end of the first millennium. The patriarch concludes that “the welfare of the people guarantees their security, independence and freedom.”
The core of the patriarch’s preaching is that the rich oligarchs should put everything at the disposal of the State, in an economy that has exploited the contradictions of war, with enormous profits from fluctuating energy prices, and in general the contradictions of globalization in the last thirty years, against which Russia has rebelled with the special operation in Ukraine. From the authenticity of the faith, we pass to the test of the authenticity of the isolationist and autarkic ideology. Russia has become the main target of international sanctions and now the certainties of its own power are beginning to shake.
Faith and wealth, religious mission and building a new civilization – these are and will be for a long time the dimensions of the life of the Russian people, during and after this and other “liberation” wars. On April 4, the Kremlin announced the start of the fifth competition for the country’s leaders, “Leaders of Russia.” The contest is the result of a project highly appreciated by Putin: “Russia – Land of Opportunities”, the eschatological response to the American ideal of the Land of Opportunity, the construction of Paradise on earth. In 2010, then-President Medvedev gave a speech at Stanford University, declaring that Russia intended to “become the land of new possibilities.”
The patriarchal homily, with its appeal to the oligarchs to engage in “good works”, is an explicit endorsement of these intentions and projects, which constitute the true motivation of Russia’s opposition to the West and its “global slave power”. . Envy and resentment against the “billion in gold” of the Anglo-Saxons and Europeans, against the seven billion of the rest of the world population, pushes the Russians to see themselves as bearers of a message of “people’s welfare”, even more than communist China, which is still seen as an oriental slave model: Russia wants to teach how to get rich in freedom. Hence the numerous projects such as “Student Spring”, “Truth in the New Media”, one of the most sensitive aspects of the new conception of power, and the “Leaders of Russia” whose election will take place even at the regional and in all spheres -parliamentary, academic and social.
Of course, the search for the new istina collides with the usual delirium of the Pravda, which hides economic and social failures with ideological proclamations, as in the days of Soviet collectivization and planning. And it also hides the failure of a tragic war in the Ukraine, where for two months the conquest of Bakhmut has been proclaimed, when it is clear that no victory will bring a smile to the “leaders of the Kremlin” and the patriarchy. It is no longer even a matter of heroically resisting in the meanders of the kyiv Monastery of the caves. Ukraine, Europe, America and the whole world must accept the challenge of truth launched by Russia, always remembering the teaching of the Gospel: ‘whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all.’
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