Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Sergei Posad, and Kostroma Folk Dance, Moscow 26.8.12

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 27, 2012

We were met by Mikhail, a young seminarian not far off his ordination, and our tour guide Irina translated for us when his English failed him.  He was a lovely young man, still tossing up whether to become a monk or a priest, and the decision is a fateful one because in the Russian Orthodox Church priests must marry.  He is an only child, so I expect his parents would prefer the latter.

Moscow Sergiev Posad 001If he does marry, he and his bride can be sent anywhere in Russia, and it will be a case of the Lord will provide.  If he is sent to a remote village somewhere like Siberia, he will have a house to live in and a garden plot to raise vegetables and perhaps keep a cow and some chickens, but apart from that he will rely on the generosity of his parishioners, because unlike the wealthy churches of the west, the Russian Orthodox church has no funds of its own.  Tourists’ entrance fees and the permit to take photos help to raise funds for a monastery of historic significance like Sergei Posad, but there is no money to spare to support priests anywhere else.  (And it is highly unlikely that Mikhail would have a house like this enchanting one that we saw along the highway en route).

Moscow Sergiev Posad 008It’s a functioning monastery, and today was a Sunday so it was crowded with pilgrims and worshippers.  Services start at 5.30 am and continue till late in the evening, and I wasn’t the only one in our group who felt a bit like an interloper when surrounded by so many people who were there to light candles and to pray.  I felt more comfortable in the church where there were no services at the time, but I must admit that it was lovely to hear the congregation in song. Quite different to the professionals we heard yesterday, but very touching.

Moscow Sergiev Posad 020

The art works are lovely. Not all of them are originals; some are restorations, late additions and substitutes but in the end it doesn’t really matter, (or not to me, anyway).  They are lovely to look at, and they are symbols of a faith that means a great deal to the people here.  After all those years when these believers were denied their churches, when aggressive atheism meant that many of the churches were stripped of their artworks to be sold off or destroyed, and when the buildings were used as storehouses and museums, well, even a non-believer like me respects the value of these churches.

Moscow Sergiev Posad 014This rather unimpressive edifice is the tomb of Boris Godunov, the subject of Mussorgsky’s opera but also Tsar of Russia in the 16th century.  I can’t remember why he is buried here and not somewhere else, I’ll have to look it up to find out when I have more time.  but whatever the reason, you’d think a Tsar would have a statue at the very least but no, just this box which looks more like a potato storehouse to me.

Alas, I don’t have any pictures of the highlight of the day, the performance of the National Russian Dance Show, Kostroma.  The first half of the show was a series of tableaux depicting the history of Russia, and after interval there were traditional folk dances from all over the Russian federation. The costumes were gorgeous and the dancers were superb.  But if you hunt around on You Tube you are bound to find a clip.

Update (back at home)

Here are a couple of links:

It’s late now, very late and tomorrow we are off to see the Armoury and the Kremlin and then we’re off to St Petersburg on the train.  The plan is to upload this in the morning after breakfast!

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2 Responses to “Sergei Posad, and Kostroma Folk Dance, Moscow 26.8.12”

  1. That’s fascinating about the Russian Orthodox Church – terrible about the lack of support for their clergy but wouldn’t it be great if the Roman Catholic church had the same attitude re priests and marriage (though perhaps “must” is a bit much). Thanks for sharing that info.

    I agree re being in churches while services are on, and yet likely to hear the music!

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