Posts tagged Russian
Starting up another potentially regular feature here at OrthodoxHistory.org…
This photo, dated 1905, shows Fr. John Kochurov preaching from the pulpit in the newly-constructed Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago. It’s one of several great shots of Holy Trinity to be found in the Chicago Daily News photo collection, available online via the Library of Congress website. We’ll post more of these Chicago photos in the future.
On January 20, 1811, an Orthodox baptismal service took place at the home of the future President of the United States John Quincy Adams and his wife Louisa. At that time they were living in St. Petersburg, Russia. Louisa Adams took an active part as one of the Godparents of the little girl being baptized, along with her fellow sponsors Martha Godfrey (the Adams American chambermaid) and Mr. Francis Gray, one of the secretaries to the American legation in Russia.
John Quincy Adams later became the sixth President of the United States, serving his one term of office between 1825 and 1829. He was the eldest son of the second U.S. President, John Adams. From a young age John Quincy lived in Europe with his father, as the latter served as American representative in France and the Netherlands. At the relatively tender age of 14, in 1781, John Quincy travelled for the first time to Russia as secretary to Francis Dana whose mission was to obtain recognition by Russia of the nascent American republic. This initial visit was to last almost 3 years.
John Quincy returned there for a further 5 years in 1809 when President James Madison appointed him as the first fully credentialed US ambassador to Russia. In this role his wife, Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, who holds the distinction of being the only foreign born First Lady of the United States, ably supported him. (She was born in London to an English mother and American father.)
So how did Louisa Adams and the other Americans become co sponsors of an Orthodox baptism? As John Quincy recounts, on Russian New Year’s Day, 1811, his footman Paul, a Finnish man of Lutheran faith and his wife, “a Russian of the Greek church,” had a baby daughter. Because of the mother’s faith it was agreed that the child “was to be christened according to the fashion of the Greek Church.” At the request of the Lutheran footman Paul, Mrs Adams and Martha were asked to stand as Godmother and Mr. Gray as Godfather. The baptism took place at 8 o’clock in the evening in the parlor of the Adams home. The service was conducted by a priest “and an inferior attendant not in clerical habits, who chanted the Slavonian service, the priest from a mass book.”
Given the unusual time and location of the baptism and the use of non-Orthodox sponsors, (assuming none of the Americans had converted), one has to wonder if the child’s life was in danger and hence the unusual circumstances. Because at that time the calendar difference was 12 days, the evening of January 20, would have been the eve of the child’s eighth day, the traditional time for its naming. But whether this was deliberate or co-incidental cannot be said. It may also be that John Quincy Adams, as the head of the extended household, influenced the timing. In September of the same year the resident English chaplain of the Russia Company also baptized in his home, but according to the rite of the Church of England, his daughter Louisa Catherine. In connection with this baptism John Quincy wrote: “ (T)he rite itself, the solemn dedication of the child to God, I prize so highly, that I think it ought never to be deferred beyond a time of urgent necessity.”
In any event, John Quincy describes the service in meticulous detail. He writes:
A plated vessel of the size of a small bathing tub contained the water, which the priest consecrated at the commencement of the ceremony. Three tapers were at first fixed at the end most distant from the priest and at the two sides of the baptismal vase. The child was brought in and held by the nurse, until the priest took it naked and plunged it three times into the water. With a pencil-brush before and after plunging, he marked a cross on its forehead and breast, and finally on its forehead, shoulders and feet – repeating the same thing afterwards with a wet sponge. A shirt and cap, provided by the godmother, were then put upon the child, and a gold baptismal cross, furnished by the godfather. Tapers lighted were put into their hands, two of them from the sides of the vase, round which they marched three times, preceded by the priest. He then with a pair of scissors cut off three locks of the child’s hair, which, with wax, he rolled up into a little ball, and threw into the water in which the child was baptized; and finally, after a little more chanting from the book, the ceremony was concluded. During the first part of the ceremony the priest turned his back to the vessel of water, and the sponsors, with the nurse and child, to the priest. Another singularity was that at one part of the ceremony they were all required to spit on the floor.
John Quincy’s diaries report numerous other experiences of Orthodox worship during this second period in Russia, including attending the Paschal night service and a liturgy followed by veneration of the relics of St. Alexander Nevsky that took place at the monastery in St. Petersburg which bears the name of the saint. From a brief review of his diaries covering his five years in Russia as Ambassador it seems that Adams attended at least 50 Orthodox services, most commonly Te Deums, the short Orthodox service of thanksgiving and intercession. His writings also evince an interest in questions such as the dating of Easter and the moment of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the eucharistic liturgy.
His experience of Orthodox services was far from being uniformly positive: In describing a baptism at St. Isaac’s Cathedral he recalls that, “The choir of singers at the left hand of the chancel was small, the singing, as usual, excellent.” But he moves on to say
The mothers appeared delighted to have obtained the blessings. The multitude of self crossings, the profound and constantly repeated bows, the prostrations upon the earth and kissing of the floor, witnessed the depth of superstition in which this people is plunged perhaps more forcibly then I had seen before.
Perhaps surprisingly his attitude to the Orthodox practice of fasting and abstinence was more positive. He recounts a conversation with his Russian landlord during the second week of Lent that is worth quoting in full:
He spoke of their Lent, of which this is the second week. They keep their first and last week with great rigor, and in them they are not allowed to eat fish, no animal food of any kind – scarcely anything but bread, oil and mushrooms. The common people he says, consider a violation of the Lent as the most heinous of crimes. Murder, they suppose, may be pardoned, but to break the fast is a sin utterly irremissible. He himself kept the fast last week, not from a religious scruple, but because he thought it a salubrious practice, and a useful one to form a habits of self-denial. I am of that opinion myself, and I have often wished that the reformers who settled New England had not abolished the practice of fasting in Lent. I am convinced that occasional fasting, and particularly abstinence from animal food several weeks at a time, and every year, is wholesome, both to body and mind. It is true that fasting is not expressly enjoined in the Scriptures, and therefore cannot be required as a religious observance; but, unless prescribed by a principle of religion, there is no motive sufficiently powerful to control the appetites of men.
John Quincy Adams’ engagement with Orthodoxy in the context of his ambassadorial duties was clearly substantial. In recent years it has become popular to refer to Orthodoxy as “the best kept secret in America.” The more I read from early sources the more it seems that Orthodoxy was in fact much better known two hundred years ago then now, at least amongst the educated and ruling classes of the nascent Republic. This is a theme to which I shall perhaps return in subsequent articles.
Nicholas Chapman, Herkimer, New York, January 20, 2012
January 16, 1924: Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow — former Archbishop of North America, and future canonized saint — issued an ukaz removing Metropolitan Platon Rozhdestvensky from his post as primate in America for “public acts of counter-revolution.” Of course, Tikhon was under pressure from the Soviet government. Really, “pressure” is an understatement; I have no doubt that he was compelled to issue that ukaz. Because this ukaz and stuff like it, later in the same year, the Russian Archdiocese declared itself independent from the Moscow Patriarchate.
January 17, 1869: Former Episcopal priest James Chrystal was ordained to the Orthodox priesthood in Syra (Greece). This would have been the eve of Theophany on the Old Calendar. Chrystal had only recently been baptized into the Orthodox Church, and very soon after returning to America, he left Orthodoxy, saying that he couldn’t tolerate the veneration of icons.
January 21, 1957: Greek Archbishop Michael Konstantinides delivered the invocation at President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration. This was the first time that an Orthodox bishop was invited to participate in a presidential inauguration. In the years surrounding this event, Orthodoxy came to be recognized by dozens of states as the “fourth major faith,” along with Roman Catholicism, Protestantism (treated as a generic whole, in spite of its myriad divisions), and Judaism.
If you know of another major American Orthodox historical event that occurred between the 16th and 22nd of January, let us know in the comments!
Mimo Milosevich has written on Archimandrite Theoklitos Triantafilides (who served in America from 1896 to 1916). Some of his reflections may be read here:
Indeed, I consulted Mimo when writing my paper on Greeks serving in the Russian Mission, which I presented at this past year’s SOCHA Symposium. He was very helpful in pointing me to sources and information.
Mimo has dedicated himself to sharing the story of Archimandrite Theoklitos and it’s easy to see why. In an age when missionaries for the Russian Mission were brought over for short stints and when missionaries of any Orthodox background typically moved about from parish to parish, Theoklitos is a sturdy rock. He still went to the “hinterlands,” mostly in Texas, but also in Colorado and spent time in San Francisco reaching out to the Greek community there. He (and others) were ultimately largely unsuccessful in that venture in San Fran, in that the Greeks formed their own parish eventually, but not entirely and his dedication was clear. He served God and God’s people through the Russian Mission. He was able to see his way through the difficult hectic life of a missionary priest at a time when not all could. Indeed, at a time when many laity could not. He accepted canonical order and he loved the people under his care. Barring some unbeknownst event in the Galveston Daily News, he should be included amongst those mentioned as possible Greek saints in America.
All that said, here is a recent talk given by Mimo:
Please be aware that during the introductory part, before Mimo himself begins speaking, there is a lot of background noise. If you can forebear, you’ll be glad because that quickly goes away and the talk is very nice. We at SOCHA are very glad that Mimo and Fr. John Whiteford (the talk was at his parish) were willing to allow us to share this with our readers.
After reading Matthew Namee’s recent post on the celebration of Christmas according to the New Calendar in Orthodox parishes and jurisdictions in America during the first half of the 20th century, I thought it appropriate to post an article that appeared in the pages of the New York Times on December 25th, 1923.
I think it’s a rather unique picture of what Orthodox life was like in this era, especially given the political overtones of the repression of the Church of Russia, which we see in the first half of the article. With their brothers and sisters in Russia experiencing the initial stages of a rather aggressive anti-religious campaign from the fledgling Bolshevik government, the North American Archdiocese were experiencing crises of their own in the wake of the Russian Revolutions of 1917.
In Russia, the Bolshevik government had instituted the national move to the Gregorian (New) Calendar on February 1/14, 1918 (February 1st became February 14th). The Church of Russia resisted this change, and in discussions of the All-Russian Sobor of 1917-8 (in session as the calendar switch went into effect), determined to retain the Old Calendar.
By 1923, however, this would be tested by the rise to power of the Living Church, a reformist movement that had coalesced out of several radical factions within the Russian Church over the previous two decades. Backed by the Bolshevik government, the Renovationists attempted to force the implementation of the New Calendar, and over time, the calendar issue became a distinct point of differentiation between the so-called “Renovationist” and “Tikhonite” factions within the Church of Russia.
In America, this differentiation, apparently, also resulted in a distinct rejection of the New Calendar within the North American Archdiocese. In December of 1923, the Archdiocese was in the throes of its legal battles with the Living Church-backed John Kedrovsky, who had returned to America in October claiming to be the Archbishop of North America and the Aleutian Islands. With confusing accounts coming out of Russia regarding the status of Patriarch Tikhon, reports of bizarre and troubling attacks against the Church and religious life by the Soviet government, and very real threats of the loss of St. Nicholas Cathedral and other church properties in American courts, the Archdiocese chose to reject the recent decision of the Pan-Orthodox Congress to institute the use of the Revised Julian (or New) Calendar.
Plainly, for many Orthodox Christians in America of Russian descent in this era, the New Calendar was not primarily associated with a Pan-Orthodox Congress, but with Bolshevism and the repression of the beloved Patriarch Tikhon, who was obviously revered in all corners of Orthodox America.
The allowance for the use of the New Calendar within what would become known as the Metropolia would not come until the 13th All-American Sobor in 1967. While some corners of the OCA have almost universally moved to the Revised Julian Calendar, there are yet still many parishes throughout the United States and Canada that will be celebrating the Nativity of Christ two weeks from now. As Matthew outlined the other day, there is similar plurality across the other jurisdictions in America. Yet regardless of when we observe this important day, it is with the same spirit of joy in the birth of Christ.