Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why did the Russians become Orthodox?

The Liturgy is in the centre of Orthodox life. Through its beauty and mysticism, others (who have not prior experience in Christian life and tradition) could be easily mystified by the grandeur of its service, showing how God and man are in a status of communion and love. However, should we show our Liturgical life and treasures to the non-Orthodox? I say yes. Why? The Russian paradigm emphasises the importance of this practice; this example could also apply today with the Anglicans and the other Denominations, with which the Orthodox Church is in an official relation and dialogue status. The story of the Russian Conversion is as follows:

The Russian leader, during the 11th century AD, sent envoys around the known world, inquiring about the religions of others, in order to identify which they wished to follow. During that epoch the Russians were in contact with Christianity; the prince wished to adopt the Christian faith for him and his subjects. However, he wished to identify which version of Christianity he was to follow. The envoys, therefore, went and observed the life, services and a number of aspects of the various Christian churches.
Why did the Russians follow the Greek Orthodox Church? “The liturgical life revealed the touch of God in the eyes of the Russians”[1]. The envoys who visited Constantinople were taken to St. Sophia, the Imperial Cathedral, in order to observe the Divine Liturgy. They were amazed and upon returning to Kiev they submitted their view, explaining: “We did not know whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendour or beauty anywhere upon earth. We only know that God dwells there among people”[2]. A little while after, Prince Vladimir was baptised, incorporating the whole Russian peoples into the family of the Orthodox Church. Therefore we identify that “it was the action of the Eucharist that converted them”[3]

[1] Andreopoulos, Andreas, “The Transfiguration of Christ” (Paraclete Press, Massachusetts, 2012), p. 67
[2] Ibid. p. 67
[3] Ware, Kallistos, “Church and Eucharist, Communion and Intercommunion”, Sobornost, 7:7, 1978, p.552

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