Tag Archives: Paul Ladouceur

Orthodoxy, Russia’s Manifest Destiny, and the Russia-Ukraine War

by Paul Ladouceur | Русский

Also available in Ukrainian (pdf)

Image: Pablo Picasso. Russkii mir, Mariupol, 2022

Several times Russian church and state leaders have been enraptured by the idea that the Russian people and its political expression have a special mission or “manifest destiny” to accomplish. Successive iterations of this “Russian idea” reflect a growing convergence of religion, ethnicity, and nationalism with state power into an explosive secular ideology bent on imposing its worldview within Russia, surrounding countries, the Orthodox Church, and worldwide.

The first iteration became prominent after the union Council of Ferrera between the Roman and the Orthodox Churches in 1439 and the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. These two events precipitated the emergence of a sense of the role and responsibility of Muscovy as the spiritual and geo-political center of Orthodoxy, captured in the epithet the “Third Rome”: the first Rome had fallen into heresy and schism with the filioque and the papacy; Constantinople, the Second Rome, deviated from Orthodoxy by union with Latins and came under Turkish rule as a divine punishment, thereby losing its claim to pre-eminence in Orthodoxy. Muscovy, having rejected the union with Rome and freed itself from the Mongols, thus became the Third Rome of Christendom. The self-proclamation of the autocephaly of the Russian Church in 1448 and the election of the first patriarch of Moscow in 1589 reinforced the Third Rome theory.

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Father Pavel Florensky, Philia, and Same-Sex Love

by Paul Ladouceur and Fr. Richard Rene | български | Ελληνικά | Русский | Српски

No longer do I call you servants, but I have called you friends.
-John 15:15 (RSV)

Father Pavel Florensky (1882-1937) is one of modern Orthodoxy’s intellectual giants. The scope of his erudition was breathtaking, covering not only philosophy and theology, but also mathematics, physics, linguistics, art, cultural history…—he is sometimes called “the Russian Leonardo.” A leading figure of the Russian religious renaissance of the early twentieth century, unlike most prominent theologians and Christian philosophers caught up in the Bolshevik revolution and civil war, he did not go into exile, preferring to stay in Russia as a witness to Christ in the harshest persecution in Christian history.

After the communists closed the Moscow Theological Academy, Florensky spent most of the 1920s and early 1930s working for the State Electrification Commission. During these dismal times, he continued both his theological research and scientific investigations and publications. Florensky had powerful protectors in the Soviet establishment, initially Leon Trotsky, impressed with Florensky’s abilities. Florensky made no attempts to conceal his faith or his priesthood; he worked and gave scientific papers in his cassock, much to the dismay of hard-line communists. He was arrested a first time in 1928, but quickly released, thanks to the intervention of Ekaterina Peshkova, wife of writer Maxim Gorky.

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Some of My Best Friends Are Heretics
What Do Orthodox Really Believe?

by Paul Ladouceur | Ελληνικά | српски

The evil eye

Orthodox pride themselves on belonging to the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” founded by Jesus Christ—and with good reason. Orthodox point to the loftiness of Orthodox theology, the beauty and solemnity of its liturgy, its mystical spirituality, the holiness of its saints, and the transcendentalism of its icons, liturgical music, and religious architecture. For many Orthodox, the Orthodox Church is the sole Church of Christ, and other Christian ecclesial bodies are decidedly “lesser,” perhaps not truly Christian, or at best “incomplete.”

But Orthodoxy on the ground, the actual beliefs and practices of Orthodox faithful, Orthodoxy as “lived religion,” yields a different picture. Lived religion focuses the beliefs, practices and everyday experiences of religious persons. Most lived religion studies of Orthodoxy concentrate on measurable practices such as attendance at church services, personal prayer, and fasting, with little attention to religious beliefs. There are a few exceptions. The Pew Research Center report on Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe (2017) examines contemporary Orthodoxy in major countries of Eastern Orthodox tradition. Results of this report were incorporated into the broader study Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century (also 2017), which focuses mainly on geographic and demographic aspects of Orthodoxy, with attention to religious practices and to opinions concerning the church’s positions on issues such as divorce, married priests, women priests, and same-sex marriage. Questions concerning religious beliefs cover basic beliefs in God, heaven, hell, miracles, the soul, and the Bible. But an astonishingly high percent of Orthodox hold non-Christian beliefs such as fate (70%), the evil eye (53%), magic, sorcery or witchcraft (40%), and reincarnation (25%). More Orthodox Christians than Catholics in the region believe in the evil eye and magic and sorcery, and differences between Catholics and Orthodox concerning reincarnation are minimal. And considerably more people (59% to 75%) in countries of Orthodox tradition believe in fate than in the secularized Czech Republic (32%).

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Dispatches from the Western Front

by Paul Ladouceur

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Paris

With all the attention devoted to the Eastern Front (the Ukraine) in the trench warfare between the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) and the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) for preeminence in Orthodoxy, the Western Front is largely ignored. The EP opened the Western Front on November 27, 2018, when it unexpectedly annulled its decree (tomos) of June 19, 1999, establishing the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe as an EP exarchate, thereby placing the parishes of the Archdiocese under the EP’s metropolitans in their respective countries. Subsequently many priests of the exarchate received letters from EP metropolitans in Western Europe ordering them to cease commemorating Archbishop Jean (Renneteau), head of the Archdiocese, but rather the Ecumenical Patriarch and the local EP metropolitan.

The Archdiocese has a long and glorious history. It was established in April 1921 by St. Tikhon (Belavin), Patriarch of Moscow, to serve the needs of the Russian refugees in Western Europe fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution and the civil war. Continue reading