Icons in Hobbiton: Charming faces of Russian Orthodoxy
One of my favorite books this year has been Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon of the Russian Orthodox Church.
It has been a riveting, eye-opener into the lives and sacrifices of the Russian people under a century of Communism, and the hard-as-nails yet dove-gentle demeanor of many of its religious. The book is a library of anecdotes and insights into (among others) military veterans who found a second calling in the monastic life.
What impresses me the most is the sense of ancient faith, that deep-bearded, rigorous discipline that we are used to associating with the equally deep-chested, bold prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament. Learning that such a hoary spirit lives on to this day was an inspiration.
To read more on this book, I’ll leave you with Bob Wiesner’s review over on SetonMagazine, and check his comment for those unsure about the relationship between Rome and the Orthodox.
Below is a list of photos republished with permission from Russia Today. When I saw them, I felt like it was the perfect marriage between Icons and Hobbiton. I grew up with a daily appreciation for the Eastern Rites, namely the Ruthenian, Byzantine and Ukrainian rites.
I can hear the chanting of these village folk, and the incense-soaked walls of their little homes. Join Fr. Sergei Smirnow below as he travels to several monasteries.
Nowadays, when there the interest in orthodoxy in Russia grows bigger, despite the impressive amount of critical notes towards the clerical officials, Sergei Smirnov, professional photographer, is probably the best guide. At least, the most objective. Sergei Smirnov visited a dozen of Russian monasteries and convents. This is a religious procession from Spassky Kostomarovsk Convent (Voronezh Oblast) to a holy source on the Don River.
Ioanno-Bogoslovsk Monastery, Cherdyn, Perm Territory. Cherdyn is one of the oldest epicenters of Orthodoxy in Russia. The monastery was founded in the 15th century. Reopened in 2003. In the first years after the revival, there were few monks in the monasteries, little money, and plenty of work to do. To begin with, the monastery allowed all-comers to stay; as a rule, they were people from difficult backgrounds, including former prisoners.
Uspensky Trifonov Monastery, Perm Territory. Located on the Chusovoy River. Established in 1997. The first monastery on the site was founded by St. Trifon Vyatsky in 1572 on the Stroganov grounds. It was from here (Chusovoy town), after a prayer service in 1581, that Ataman Yermak Timofeevich set off to conquer Siberia. A memorial was erected on the banks of the river.
Bogoroditsa-Tabynsk Convent, Krasnousolsk-kurort, Bashkiria. Situated in the spurs of the Ural Mountains on the Usolka River. The first monastery was established in the region in 1597. Pictired is Sister Stefanida with her cat. Stefanida graduated from music college, sings in the monastery choir, and enjoys making models.
This modern Convent was founded in 1997 near the Krasnousolsk sanatorium. The locale is known for its healing mineral water springs. In the background are the holy spring on the Usolka River and monastic buildings.
Another convent is Spaso-Preobrazhensky Tolshevsky, Voronezh Oblast. It was founded in the mid-17th century. In 1768-1769, it was the retirement home of St. Tikhon Zadonsky the Miracle-Worker. Located in a forest reserve on the banks of the Usmanki River (Voronezh State Biosphere Reserve), it was restored in 1994 as a convent.
Priest Sergei Smirnov in one of the rural churches in Voronezh region. His sons come running at the sound of the church bells. As a schoolboy and a student of economics, Father Sergei often visited monasteries with his father. These trips, plus the contact he had with the monks, influenced Sergei’s decision to enter the Voronezh Orthodox Theological Seminary after graduation. He is presently a member of the clergy of the Voronezh diocese.
Ioanno-Bogoslovsky Convent, Chemal, Altai Mountains. The mill and church at Chemal were founded in 1849 by the Orthodox Altai Spiritual Mission to enlighten the local Altai people.
A wooden church stands on the island of Patmos in the middle of the Katun River; residential and farm buildings are located in an area of woodland on the left bank. The island is connected to the shore by means of a suspension bridge. The sisters make a daily round of the cloister with an icon.
200. Nikolaevsk Belogorsk Monastery, Perm Territory. Located in the Ural Mountains, where schismatics, serfs, and robbers fled to escape repression and persecution. The monastery was founded in 1897 for Old Believers to perform missionary work. Restored in 1990. In the photo, hieromonk Alipi talks to an inhabitant of the monastery near the holy spring of St. Nikolai the Miracle-Worker.
A multi-day religious procession in Voronezh Oblast. After the evening meal, the procession leader, hieromonk Tikhon, takes questions from the participants.
Serafim-Pokrovsky Convent, Leninsk-Kuznetsk, Kemerovo Oblast. A modern convent. Mother Superior Maria in her office.
“Holy Bushes” Uspensky Svyato-Georgiev [St. George Assumption] Monastery, Bashkiria was opened in 1901. It is located among forests, meadows, and low hills, away from populated areas.
The monastery makes extensive use of subsistence farming. Cows, horses, chickens, and bees are all kept and bred. There is agricultural machinery, and a small, artificial pond. By the pond, a chapel stands above a holy well. The mountain climate is very changeable, and the brothers must hurry to harvest the hay before rainfall. Restored in 1997 as a male monastery.
Father Nikolai, an elder of the Ufa diocese, visits the cloister to answer workers’ questions. Lay people often come and spend time at the monastery. The purpose of their visits is the selfless desire to help the monastery. In addition to their desire to help the monastery, people are frequently in need of spiritual help and support, and in search of a new outlook on life. Visitors and monks live in small detached wooden monastic cells.
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