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Reverend Ioann Barbus Reverend Ioann Barbus


We are glad to welcome you to the official website of the Transfiguration of our Lord Russian Orthodox Church, located in the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland, USA. The church belongs to the original Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and has as its goal the preservation of the spiritual traditions and the treasure of church services of ancient Russian Orthodoxy.

We invite you to acquaint yourself with our church and our parish, to see our small but wondrous iconostasis, to hear our modest choir. When visiting our online Orthodox library, you will be able to acquire deeper knowledge of the Orthodox faith through the spiritually-enlightening materials that are contained therein. These materials are printed in our church bulletins, which are issued monthly in both Russian and English. You are also very welcome to visit our church in person.

  View our current schedule of services.
With love in Christ,
Reverend Ioann Barbus and the church council.





Christ is risen!

We are forgiven, we are saved and redeemed – Christ is risen! These three words say everything. They are the foundation of our faith, our hope, love, Christian life, all our wisdom, enlightenment, the Holy Church, inner prayer, and our entire future. These three words have destroyed all human woe, death, evil, and have given life, bliss, and freedom! What miraculous power! Can one tire of saying: Christ is risen! Can one tire of hearing: Christ is risen!

But do all of us understand the true meaning of those three words: Christ is risen? What does it mean: Christ is risen? We know that Christ did not arise today, nor yesterday, but many, many centuries ago. And who in our times can doubt that Christ truly arose on the third day? Obviously no one! So what, then, are we attesting to when to the greeting of “Christ is risen!” we respond with the words “Truly He is risen!”? Are we attesting only to our faith or to something more?

All Christians must participate in the very resurrection of Christ. “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain” – says Apostle Paul; we are thus, consequently, celebrating the greatest Christian holiday – the feast of all feasts, for on Christ’s Resurrection is founded Christianity itself. But should this celebration consist only of following church rules and being present in church? Where is the inner, spiritual meaning of the holiday? Can the sole remembrance of that great world event – Christ’s Resurrection – bring us salvation? No, it cannot, and thus Christians must actually participate in this Resurrection. And how should they do so? Through the sacraments of repentance and communion, through partaking of the Holy Body and the life-giving Blood of the Saviour, in order to become united with Him, our resurrected Redeemer. In the days of Great Lent, in the days of penitence, purification, and rebirth, we must renew our hearts in order that Christ be resurrected within them. Thus, whoever did not take part in Christ’s Resurrection cannot comprehend and cannot encompass within himself the true meaning of the words “Christ is risen!” and the response “Truly He is risen!”

Christ’s Resurrection is affirmed within us, within our hearts not only by the words “Truly He is risen!” It is affirmed by joy in the Lord and proven by love for Christ. Whoever loves, understands God’s love and does not doubt it. But remember, dear brethren, your recent confessions, how you repented of grumbling against God, of doubting His mercy, how you accused the Lord of your supposedly undeserved sorrows and unbearable sufferings, even of not heeding your prayers! Remember how, though living in sin, you nevertheless were wont to look upon the Lord as unmerciful, as deaf and blind to your woes and needs! But now, having become united with Christ, have you realized that He is the God of love, the God of mercy, not punishment? If you have truly recognized this truth, then undoubtedly you have understood God’s intention, you have come to love the Lord with a pure heart, Christ has risen within you, and you can now in all conscience respond to the joyous Christian greeting “Christ is risen!” with the words “Truly He is risen!” Amen.


Holy martyr priest Seraphim (Chichagov)






Just as Great Lent consists of seven weeks, which are like the seven steps of a ladder that leads us to the joy of Pascha, so the paschal period (from the Resurrection of Christ to the Pentecost) also consists of seven weeks – the seven steps of a ladder that leads us to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. At each step (i.e. each Sunday) of this period, too, the Church commemorates a special event or example which helps us to prepare ourselves properly for the great moment. With His Resurrection the Lord destroyed the power of hell and death, and opened the gates of paradise to us. Now, through church services, we continue to delight in the joy of Pascha and to prepare for the further joy and the indescribable and immeasurable gifts which the faithful receive from the Holy Spirit.

While ascending the ladder of Great Lent, we held onto the handrails of penitence and prayer, by means of which we were purified and spiritually uplifted. During the paschal period we hold onto the handrails of faith, which quickly and easily transports us from earth to heaven. Each Sunday the Church offers us wonderful examples of this faith and shows us the amazing results of it. The second paschal Sunday (the first being the day of Pascha itself) is dedicated to Apostle Thomas and is, therefore, called the Sunday of Thomas. Apostle Thomas was an unbeliever in an empirical sense; he was like modern scientists – curious about everything, but wanting to experience it through his five senses before being able to believe or accept anything. Such was his reaction to the news of Christ’s Resurrection. And the Lord deliberately appeared to His disciples on the first day in Thomas’s absence, in order to give the doubting apostle a chance to believe in Him by way of the heart. However, in view of Thomas’s absolute need to reach faith by way of the mind, the Lord again appeared to His disciples a week later, and charitably allowed Thomas to touch His wounds, so that this unbeliever, who required physical proof, could rapturously cry out together with the others: “My Lord and my God!” However, in replying to the apostle, the Lord pointed out that faith through the heart is so much more preferable, and left consolation for the faithful of all ages by saying: “You believe because you have seen; but blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

The third paschal Sunday commemorates the holy Myrrh-bearing Women, those truly wondrous women whose love and devotion to Christ surpassed even that of His disciples, and for which they were the first to hear of Christ’s Resurrection from the angels sitting at the tomb of Christ. And having heard this amazing news, the myrrh-bearers believed it right then and there, not doubting for a single moment and, filled with great joy, went off to share the news with the apostles. The myrrh-bearing women are an example of absolute and perfect faith, which accepts spiritual manifestations instantly and without doubt, and which does not demand any proof. This kind of faith also receives the highest reward: the holy women, while on their way to the apostles, were also the first to see the Resurrected Lord Himself.

On the fourth paschal Sunday the Church offers us the example of the Paralytic, who lay in his terrible condition for 38 years without getting any help. The paralytic suffered for his sins, but the Lord visited the house of mercy where this sufferer and others like him lay, and healed him by His word, ordering him to take up his bed and go. The paralytic believed the Lord and went off, obeying the Lord’s command even in the face of reproaches from the Jews, who were upset that the healing took place on a Sabbath. The example of the paralytic shows us how faith helps to overcome sin and the consequences of sin – suffering and illness.

The fifth paschal Sunday is dedicated to the marvelous Samaritan woman, who is an example of simple-hearted and enthusiastic faith. Such faith can completely transform even a sinner and bring him to a state of righteousness, as the Church shows us in the Samaritan woman’s moving conversation with the Lord at the well. The Lord once came to a city in Samaria called Sychar, where there was a well that had been given by Jacob to his son Joseph and the latter’s descendants. Wearied from His journey, Christ providentially sat to rest at the well, while His disciples went to town to buy food. At that time a certain woman came from the city to draw water from the well. The Lord asked her to give Him to drink. The woman was surprised by such a request, since the Jews normally had no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus said to her: if only you knew Who is speaking to you, you would ask Him yourself to give you to drink, and He would give you living water. The Samaritan woman was even more amazed: how could Jesus give her living water, when He did not even have anything to draw it with? The Lord replied to her that those who drink water from the well would thirst again, while the water which He gave (i.e. His teaching) would become a source of eternal life. Then the Lord, knowing full well that the Samaritan woman, though secretly living in sin, nevertheless had a very ardent faith in God and firmly awaited the arrival of the Messiah, gradually revealed to her that He Who was talking with her was, in fact, the awaited Christ. Then the Samaritan woman, overcome with joy, threw down her pitcher and ran to the city to urge her fellow-citizens to come out to meet Christ, and because of her testimony many Samaritans came to believe in Jesus Christ on that day. The blessed woman herself, who had had the great honor of conversing with the Lord, became a martyr for Christ during the persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Nero. Her name is holy martyr Photinia (Svetlana).

One of the brightest examples of faith is the Blind Man, to whom the sixth paschal Sunday is dedicated. The Lord once came upon a man, blind from birth, who sat and begged for alms. Knowing that this man had been born blind for the sole reason that God be glorified through him, Christ spat on the ground, made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with this clay. Then He said to the blind man: go and wash in the pool of Siloam. The blind man went and washed and came back seeing. The Pharisees, who observed the law of Moses with hypocritical strictness, did not believe in the healing and went out of their way to discredit the miracle. At first they expressed doubt that the blind man had actually been born blind, and so they questioned his parents extensively, and later questioned the man himself. Then they began saying that Whoever healed the blind man could not have come from God, since He did not observe the Sabbath (i.e. He healed the blind man on a Sabbath!), that only Moses communicated with God, and they did not know from whence this Man came. The man who had been blind was not afraid of the Pharisees, but boldly answered them: “It is truly amazing that you do not know from whence He comes, and yet He has opened my eyes; from the beginning of time it has never been heard that any man opened the eyes of one who was born blind, so if this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” Then the Pharisees became enraged and cast him out. Jesus Christ, hearing that the blind man had been cast out, found him and said to him: Do you believe in the Son of God? The blind man asked: And who is He, Lord, that I might believe in Him? Jesus said: You have seen Him and it is He Who is speaking with you. Then the blind man exclaimed: Lord, I believe! and worshipped Him.

This moving story shows us the example of a man who through his faith received total sight – both physical and spiritual. He earned this miracle by suffering and patiently enduring his blindness for many years, and now suddenly both his physical and his spiritual eyes were opened, and he simultaneously saw the sun in nature and the spiritual Sun – the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, the blind man was not afraid to declare his faith openly, fearing neither any man, nor harassment, nor persecution for his faith. In this he shows us the way, since we, too, live in a world that is just as hostile to Christ and to true faith in God as were the Pharisees who cast the blind man out from their midst.

The story of the blind man also gives us great comfort: it clearly indicates to us that innate physical defects are not specifically given as punishment for sins, but often to demonstrate God’s grace. When the disciples asked Christ: Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? – the Lord said to them: neither this man sinned, nor his parents, but this was given so that the works of God should be manifest in him.

On the seventh paschal Sunday the Church unites all the examples of faith in commemorating the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, who welded this faith into a single, harmonious. and Orthodox doctrine. The First Ecumenical Council was convened in A.D. 325 in the city of Nicea, in order to examine the false teaching of Arius. Arius rejected the divinity of Christ and taught that Jesus was not the Son of God, but only a supreme form of creation. Arianism has lived on in various forms to this day, and in our times it is being propagated extensively. The Holy Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council, which included such holy men as Saint Nicholas, who even slapped Arius in the face for latter’s insolent blasphemy against the Lord Jesus Christ, roundly condemned Arius’s false teaching and composed the first eight articles of the Creed, in which they clearly and concretely explained the tenets of the Orthodox faith.


Father Rostislav Sheniloff






Homily for the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman


When we stand in church or at home before the holy icons, make the sign of the cross, bow our heads or prostrate ourselves, say the words of prayer, make charitable contributions to the church, abstain from non-Lenten food, i.e. keep the fast, etc., – then we are externally serving and worshipping God. However, such worship is not yet the worship “in spirit and in truth” that was mentioned in today’s Gospel, it is not yet genuine prayer, but only its outward manifestation.

Today’s Gospel reading tells us of how Jesus Christ in His conversation with the Samaritan woman teaches us, too, how to pray and how to worship God.

We have just celebrated the great feast of Christ’s Resurrection, the celebration of which continues until the end of the paschal period. And throughout this period of time, every Sunday the Church brings to our attention Gospel readings from St. John the Theologian, whose Gospel is distinguished from the others by its lofty spiritual style, and which most frequently deals with dogmatic teaching and speaks of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, as the Messiah.

The Holy Church, preparing us throughout the entire year for the feast of Pascha, now offers us supreme truths in these Gospel readings.

Often in prayer our soul is distracted by various earthly thoughts, even against our will. Often we ourselves do not know what we are saying, since our lips say one thing, while the heart deals with another. How can we expect God to hear our prayer when we ourselves often do not hear it? Rarely are we able to pray sincerely, sometimes not at all, and there is little benefit from automatic prayer. What should we do? Should we stop praying?

No, dear brethren! The Lord answers us through the Samaritan woman.

The Lord met this woman at the well, and during His conversation with her He made her aware of her sinful life. This revelation set her on the path to salvation – she was the first among the Samaritans to acknowledge Christ as Messiah. Without even having had time to do any penance, she asks this Stranger about spiritual life, and He explains it to her. He does not reject her, though she is a sinner, but discourses with her on the same level as with His listeners in the synagogues.

The Lord knows what is in everyone’s heart, He knew what was in the Samaritan woman’s heart, and He also knows our own hearts and our weaknesses. He knows us well and can help us, only we must not fall prey to despondency. Tradition holds it that the Samaritan woman, who was called Photinia, was persecuted during Nero’s reign in approximately A.D. 66 for spreading Christianity, and died a martyric death by being thrown into a well.

Despite leading a sinful life, the Samaritan Photinia had a sincere desire to know the true faith, and the Lord did not overlook her desire. In other words, she was not lukewarm in faith as is, unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of contemporary mankind. The Lord accepted the sinful Samaritan woman, but did not approve of the scribes and the Pharisees, despite the fact that outwardly their life may have appeared more righteous.

Thus external actions alone, without internal coordination, are of lesser value to us than making sure our inner spiritual state is better and purer. At this point we come upon the most important aspect of our life: the inner life.

Today’s Gospel reading teaches us to approach all spiritual issues in our life from within: to pay scant attention to externals, for the internal has more value than the external. And whenever we are faced with the question of whether we are acting correctly in such-and-such a case, we should look upon it from within the heart: if the answer is “yes” – then thanks be to God, and if the answer is “no” – then we must try to change ourselves.

Thus for a long time now, for almost two thousand years, the time has been ripe to worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for God seeks such worshippers; and may He grant that we be among them. Amen.


Father Igor Hrebinka






The day of commemoration of all Russian saints reveals to us the spiritual skies under which the Russian land was being formed and proceeded to exist historically.

The very existence of the Russian people is tied in with the inception of its spiritual life, with its assimilation of the foundations of a Christian outlook: it is senseless to seek on earth the meaning and purpose of life which ends in death. One must aspire to a divine, grace-filled, eternal life, and then this temporal life will also fall into place. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and its truth, and all this shall be added unto you.” Faith and the Orthodox Church united separate tribes into one people. The basic characteristic of the Russian people was the belief in the Kingdom of God, the search for it, the search for truth. For the sake of God’s Kingdom, for the sake of its attainment, for the sake of prayer, Russian ascetics rejected worldly vanity and went off into deep forests and uninhabited islands. They were only seeking the Kingdom of God, not to build or create anything, they were only escaping from people, but people followed them for the sake of the Kingdom of God that was to be found in those forests and on those islands, around those righteous men, and thus sprang up Russia’s famous monasteries and hermitages.

The search for truth has always been the major thread in the life of the Russian people, and it is not by chance that the first written code of law was called “Russian Truth.” Yet it was not only those who escaped from the world who aspired after heaven and the Kingdom of God, but all religious Russian people understood the meaning of life in those terms. All those who were building Russia up as a nation, though living in the world and fulfilling their responsibilities, always considered faithfulness to the Heavenly Kingdom and Divine Truth to be the major aspect of life.

In Russia there were princes, warriors, landowners – people of all ranks and professions, but their basic understanding, aspiration, and purpose in life was the acquisition of the Kingdom of God, participation in it. Conversion to the Christian faith transformed also the Russian princes. Power is always the expression of consciousness and will. Power is always guided by some philosophy or other, some understanding of the meaning of life and one’s activity or other. Prior to holy Prince Vladimir the Russian princes were leaders of warring tribes and were engaged in war for the sake of the spoils and the glory. Having become Christian, they became individual leaders of one people. Conversion to Christianity brought with it a realization and feeling of unity. Truth was in the brotherhood of princes, while internecine war became falsehood. Holy Prince Vladimir gave the Russian people a new understanding of life and a new life force. Calamities, misfortunes, defeats are powerless before the main force of life, powerless before a spiritual life. The Kingdom of God, its spiritual comfort, and participation in it remain untouched. A raging storm passes, and man continues to live. Thus martyrs smiled during the cruelest tortures because of the joyous sensation of God’s grace within them.

This is the source of Russia’s life force. The history of the rise of Moscow vividly confirms this idea. Moscow was ruled by pious princes who had acquired an Orthodox understanding of truth, and for this reason the holy hierarch Peter told the Muscovite prince that Moscow would be elevated if the prince built within it a House of the Holy Virgin. In other words, if you are faithful to Orthodoxy to the very end, and will first seek the Kingdom of God and its truth, then all of this – all earthly, temporal, national things, – shall be added unto you. Such was the design of Moscow, and for a long time it remained faithful to the testament of hierarch Peter, and the nightly roll call on the walls of the Kremlin was conducted with the words: “O Holy Theotokos, save us!”

This does not mean that the life and the people were holy. Not at all! People are always sinful, but it is important and a saving grace to possess an understanding of good and evil, to aspire to the truth, because resurrection is then possible.

Sinful Moscow, the capital of sinful Russia, fell hard many times in its historic life, but arose anew because its awareness of truth never died. In the Time of Troubles Russia fell so low that all her enemies were sure she was fatally wounded. Russia had no tsar, no government, no military force. Moscow was ruled by foreigners. People became faint-hearted and weak, and waited to be saved by foreigners. Destruction seemed inevitable, and Russia would have definitely been destroyed if all awareness of truth had been lost. But Russia was saved by the hierarch Hermogenes, who spiritually and morally revived the Russian people in faith and confession, and once again the people stepped unto the path of seeking the Kingdom of God and its truth – the truth of temporal national life being subordinate to spiritual rule. Nowhere else in history can one come across such a deep fall of a nation and such a quick resurrection of it a mere year later. Such is the history of Russia, such is its path.

After Peter the Great the life of society stepped off the Russian path. Although it did not wander off completely, nevertheless it lost the clarity of awareness of truth, the clarity of belief in the truth of the Gospel – “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and its truth.” The cruel suffering of the Russian people is the consequence of Russia’s betrayal of itself, its path, its calling. But that cruel suffering, the desire for life even under the power of virulent enemies of God tell us that the people have not entirely lost their awareness of truth. Russia will arise just as it arose before. It will arise when the fire of faith starts burning; Russia will arise when it sees and comes to love its Orthodox saints and confessors.

Today, on the day of all Russian saints, the Church points them out to us, and the Orthodox faithful look at them with spiritual rapture, look at the multitude of them in the Heavenly Kingdom! And how many remain still unglorified, an infinite number of them! Russia will arise when it lifts up its gaze and sees that all the Russian saints are alive in the Heavenly Realm, that they are filled with the spirit of eternal life, and that we should be with them too, and should spiritually touch upon and come to participate in their eternal life. In this lies the salvation of Russia and the entire world.


 Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco






On June 3rd (May 21st by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the great Saints Constantine and Helena.

On the border between the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., the Roman Emperor Diocletian divided the huge Roman Empire into two halves, in order to govern it more easily. He himself ruled the eastern half of the Empire, assisted by Caesar Galerius. As ruler of the western half he appointed Emperor Maximian, and as his assistant – Caesar Constantius Chlorus, who governed Gaul and Britain. Constantius Chlorus, though officially a pagan because of his position, in his heart, together with all his family members, worshipped the One God. In A.D. 303 Diocletian issued a decree concerning the extermination of Christianity from the Roman Empire. Although Constantius Chlorus was unable to openly disobey the elder emperor, nevertheless he continued to protect the Christians in all possible ways, especially after his wife, Queen Helena, converted to Christianity.

St. Constantine, the only son of Constantius Chlorus and Queen Helena, was born in A.D. 274, and although officially he grew up a pagan, he was reared at home in a Christian atmosphere. While being a direct witness to the terrible persecution of Christians instituted by Diocletian, at the same time Constantine saw the triumph of the Christian faith, which manifested itself in countless miracles and God’s help to the holy martyrs. Constantine was tall, handsome, and physically strong, and at the same time good-natured and modest, for which he was loved by the people and the army. This provoked envy of him on the part of other court officials, especially Caesar Galerius, who even plotted to bar Constantine from ruling his part of the Empire. Seeing this, Constantine fled to Gaul, where after the death of Constantius Chlorus in 306 the army proclaimed Constantine emperor of Gaul and Britain. Constantine was then 32 years old. After coming to power, his first act was to declare freedom for Christianity in all his provinces.

In 311 the cruel tyrant Maxentius became ruler of the western half of the Empire, and he decided to get rid of Constantine and reign alone. In 312 Constantine himself embarked upon a military campaign against the Roman emperor, in order to rid Rome of the evil tyrant. This campaign was extremely difficult, since the enemy’s army greatly outnumbered Constantine’s; moreover, Maxentius used the help of evil forces by shielding himself and his army with sorcery and magic. Constantine realized that relying on human powers was not enough, and he then remembered the one true God and began praying to Him, asking for help from above.

And the Lord sent an extraordinary omen to His chosen one. On the eve of a decisive battle, Constantine and his whole army saw in the sky the sign of a cross, made up of light and spread across the sun, with the inscription: “With this you shall vanquish” (NIKA in Greek). Constantine was perplexed, since the cross, being an instrument of shameful execution, was considered by the Romans to be a bad omen. However, the very next night Jesus Christ Himself appeared to Constantine with a cross in His hand and told him that with this sign he would vanquish his foe; and He commanded him to make a banner with the image of the holy Cross. Constantine followed the Lord’s command and defeated the enemy, becoming the ruler of the entire western half of the Empire.

With his first decree the new emperor proclaimed full religious tolerance among his subjects; at the same time, he became the protector of Christians, repealed the penalty of death by crucifixion, and enacted laws favorable to the Church of Christ.

Meanwhile, the ruler of the eastern half of the Empire, the pagan Licinius, also a cruel and perfidious tyrant, went to war against Constantine. Armed with the power of the cross, Emperor Constantine stood against Licinius and roundly defeated him, becoming the new sovereign of the entire Roman Empire. The victory over Licinius instilled in Constantine an even greater realization of God’s help, and he worked at spreading the Christian faith among his subjects, decreeing Christianity to be the state religion in the Empire.

Of great assistance to Constantine in the spreading of Christianity was his mother, Queen Helena. When Constantine decided to build churches in the Holy Land on the sacred sites of Christ’s birth, crucifixion, and resurrection, and also to find the Lord’s Cross, Queen Helena joyously undertook this task herself. In 326 she traveled to Jerusalem and worked hard to find the Lord’s Cross, which had been deliberately buried by Christ’s enemies. After discovering the true and Life-giving Cross, Queen Helena made sure that the people could venerate it. The Church commemorates this event in the major feast of the Elevation of the Cross. Part of the original Cross, together with the nails and some thorns, Queen Helena brought back to Rome for her son Constantine, while the other part remained in Jerusalem. Afterwards Constantine and Helena erected a huge and magnificent church over the sites of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. This church, which comprises the hill of Calvary and Christ’s Tomb, is the major holy site in Jerusalem even to this day. For their labors in spreading Christianity, Emperor Constantine the Great and Queen Helena have been named equal-to-the-apostles by the Church. St. Constantine died on the very day of Pentecost in A.D. 337.







An Orthodox Christian understanding of unidentified flying objects (UFOs)




UFO Sightings and the Scientific Investigation of Them


Although fiction, one might say, has in a way prepared men for the appearance of UFOs, our understanding of their “objective” reality obviously cannot be derived from literature or human expectations and fantasies. Before we can understand what they might be, we must know something of the nature and reliability of the observations which have been made of them. Is there really something “out there” in the sky, or is the phenomenon entirely a matter of misperception on the one hand, and psychological and pseudo-religious wish fulfillment on the other?

A reliable outline of UFO phenomena has been given by Dr. Jacques Vallee, a French scientist now living in California, who has advanced degrees in astrophysics and computer science and has been involved in the scientific analysis of UFO reports for a number of years. His testimony is all the more valuable to us in that he has studied closely UFO sightings outside of the United States, especially in France, and is thus able to give a fair international picture of their distribution.

Dr. Vallee finds that although strange flying objects have been observed at various times in past centuries, their modern history as a mass phenomenon begins in the years during and just after World War II. American interest began with the sightings in 1947, but there were a number of sightings before that in Europe. In World War II many pilots reported strange lights which seemed to be under intelligent control, and in 1946, particularly in July, there was a whole series of sightings in Sweden and other northern European countries. Sightings in this “Scandinavian wave” were interpreted first as meteors, then as rockets or bombs, and finally as some new type of aircraft capable of extraordinary movements in the sky, but leaving no trace on the ground even when they seemed to land. The European press was full of reports of this wave of sightings, and everyone in Sweden was talking of them; some thousands of sightings were reported, but not once was the hypothesis of “extraterrestrial” or “interplanetary” origin suggested. Dr. Vallee concludes that the wave was caused by actually existing but unidentified objects and not by any previously existing UFO rumor or expectation of “visitors from outer space.” In this and succeeding saucer waves he finds a total absence of any correlation between widespread interest in science fiction and peaks of UFO activity; earlier, also, there had been no saucer wave at the time of the American panic over Orson Welles’s 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds. He concludes that “the birth, growth, and expansion of a UFO wave is an objective phenomenon independent of the conscious or unconscious influence of the witnesses and their reaction to it.”

The first publicized sighting in the United States occurred in June of 1947, when Kenneth Arnold, a salesman flying his own plane, saw nine disc-like objects, looking something like “saucers,” flying near Mt. Rainier in Washington State. The newspapers picked up the story, and the flying saucer era began. Interestingly, however, this was not actually the first American sighting at all; other unpublicized sightings had been made in the months before this. There was also a UFO wave (with fifty reports) in Hungary early in June. Therefore, the 1947 sightings cannot all be set down to a hysteria over the Arnold incident. There were a number of other sightings in the American wave of 1947, chiefly in June, July, and August. Although some newspapers speculated on “interplanetary visitors,” these sightings were taken seriously by scientists, who assumed they were the result of advanced human technology, most likely American, or perhaps Russian.

A second wave occurred in July 1948, with sightings in America and France. In the United States there was a spectacular night sighting made by the pilots of an Eastern Airlines DC-3 plane of a torpedo-shaped craft with two rows of portholes, surrounded by a blue glow and with a tail of orange flames, which maneuvered to avoid collision and disappeared. In August of the same year there were many sightings in Saigon and other parts of Southeast Asia of a “long fish-like object.”

1949 saw reports of strange discs and spheres in Sweden and more UFOs in America, including two observations by trained astronomical observers. Small UFO waves, as well as isolated sightings, continued in 1950 and 1951, especially in the United States, but also in Europe.

In 1952 the first real international UFO wave occurred, with many sightings in the United States, France, and North Africa. At the peak of the wave, two sensational sightings were made above the Capitol and the White House in Washington, D.C. (an area under constant control by radar). In September there was a wave encompassing Denmark, Sweden, and northern Germany and Poland. At the same time in France the first UFO “landing” was reported, together with a description of “little men.”

In 1953 there were no waves, but there were a number of individual sightings. The most remarkable one occurred in North Dakota, where four objects hovered and maneuvered over an air filter station for three hours at night; an official report of this event consisted of several hundred pages, with accounts from many witnesses, mainly pilots and military personnel.

1954 saw the largest international wave yet. France was literally inundated with sightings, with dozens of reports every day in September, October, and November. In the French wave the problems facing a serious scientific investigation of UFO phenomena are well demonstrated: the phenomenon was so intense, the impact on public opinion so deep, the newspapers’ reaction so emotional that scientific reflexes were saturated long before a serious investigation could be organized. As a result, no scientist could risk his reputation by studying openly a phenomenon so emotionally distorted; French scientists remained silent until the wave passed and died.

During the French wave, the typical characteristics of later UFO encounters were often present: UFO “landings” (with at least some circumstantial evidence of them), beams of light issuing from the UFO to the witness, stoppage of motors in the vicinity of the sightings, strange small beings in “diving suits,” serious psychic and physical harm to witnesses.

Since 1954 many sightings have been made every year in various countries, with major international waves in 1965, 1967, and 1972-73; sightings have been especially numerous and profound in their effects in South American countries.

The best known government investigation of UFOs was that undertaken by the United States Air Force shortly after the first American sightings in 1947; this investigation, known from 1951 and onward as “Project Blue Book,” lasted until 1969, when it was abandoned on the recommendation of the “Condon Report” of 1968 – the work of a scientific committee led by a noted physicist of the University of Colorado. Close observers both of “Blue Book” and the Condon Committee, however, have noted that neither of them took UFO phenomena seriously, and that their main occupation was more the “public relations” task of explaining away mystifying aerial phenomena, in order to calm public fears about them. Some “Flying Saucer” groups claimed that the Unites States government was using these investigations as a cover-up of its own knowledge of the real nature of UFOs; but all evidence points to the fact that the investigations themselves were simply careless because the phenomena were not taken seriously – especially after some of the stranger UFO stories had begun to make the subject distasteful to scientists. The first director of “Blue Book,” Captain Edward Ruppelt, admitted that “had the Air Force tried to throw up a screen of confusion, they couldn’t have done a better job… The problem was tackled with organized confusion… Everything was being evaluated on the premise that UFOs couldn’t exist.” The Condon Report contains some “classic” explanations of UFOs; one, for example, states that “this unusual sighting should therefore be assigned to the category of some almost certainly natural phenomenon which is so rare that it apparently has never been reported before or since.” The chief scientific consultant of “Blue Book” for most of its 22 years, Northwestern University astronomer J. Allen Hynek, openly calls the whole thing “a pseudo-scientific project.”

In its 22 years of investigations, such as they were, “Project Blue Book” collected over 12,000 cases of puzzling aerial phenomena, 25% of which remained unidentified even after its often strained explanations. Many thousands of other cases have been and are being collected and investigated by private organizations in the United States and in other countries, although almost all government organizations refrain from comment on them. In the Soviet Union the subject was first given public mention (which means government approval) in 1967, when Dr. Felix Ziegel of the Moscow Institute of Aviation, in an article in the Soviet magazine Smena, stated that “Soviet radar has picked up unidentified flying objects for twenty years.” At the same time there was a Soviet scientific conference “On Space Civilizations,” led by the Armenian astronomer Viktor Ambartsumyan, which urged a preliminary study of the scientific and technical problems of communicating with such “civilizations,” whose existence is taken for granted. The next year, however, the subject of UFOs became once more forbidden in the Soviet Union, and since then Soviet scientists have told of their researches and hypotheses only unofficially to Western scientists.

In the United States, the subject of UFOs remains somewhat off-limits for military and scientific men, but in recent years an increasing number, especially among younger scientists, have begun to take the subject seriously and come together to discuss it and suggest means of researching it. Drs. Hynek and Vallee speak of an “invisible college” of scientists who are now actively interested in UFO phenomena, although most of them do not wish their names publicly associated with the subject.

There are, of course, those who continue to deny the phenomenon altogether, explaining it as misperceptions of natural objects, balloons, airplanes, etc., not to mention hoaxes and psychological “projections.” One of these, Philip Klass, takes delight in debunking UFOs, investigating some of the sightings and finding them to be either natural phenomena or frauds. His study has convinced him that “the idea of wondrous spaceships from a distant civilization really is a fairy story that is tailored to the adult mentality.” Such hard-headed investigators, however, usually restrict themselves to cases where actual physical proof of a UFO has been left (the so-called “Close Encounters of the Second Kind,” as we shall see below); and even staunch defenders of their reality are forced to admit that there is very little of this even in the most convincing UFO sightings. The one thing that has persuaded a number of scientists in recent years to take the phenomena seriously is not the physical proof of them, but the fact that many serious and reliable people have seen something which cannot be explained and which often has a powerful effect upon them. Dr. Hynek writes of his investigation: “Invariably I have had the feeling that I was talking to someone who was describing a very real event. To him or her it represented an outstanding experience, vivid and not at all dreamlike, an event for which the observer was usually totally unprepared – something soon recognized as being beyond comprehension.”

This combination of the often intense reality of the experience of encountering a UFO (especially in the “Close Encounters”), and the almost total lack of physical evidence of it – makes the investigation of UFOs by nature not chiefly an examination of physical phenomena, but more an investigation of the human reports of it, their credibility, consistency, etc. Already this places the investigation somewhat in the realm of psychology, and is enough to tell us that the approach solely in search of physical proof is an inadequate one. However, Mr. Klass’s opinion that the “wondrous spaceships” are a fairy story for adults is perhaps also not far from the truth. One thing is the observation made of UFOs, and quite another is the interpretation which people give their (or others’) observations – the former could be real, and the latter a “fairy story” or a myth of our times.

Dr. Hynek has done much to remove some of the common misconceptions about UFO sightings. Thus, he makes it clear that most UFO sightings are not reported by cultists, unstable or uneducated people. The few reports made by such people are usually easily identified as unreliable and not further investigated. But the most coherent and articulate reports come from normal, responsible people (often with scientific training), who are genuinely surprised or shocked by their experience and simply do not know how to explain it; the stronger the experience and the closer the UFO is seen, the less willing the witnesses are to report it at all. UFO records are a collection of “incredible tales told by credible persons,” as one Air Force general has remarked. There can be no reasonable doubt that there is something behind the many thousands of serious UFO reports.


(To be continued)


Father Seraphim (Rose)


(From the book Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future)










Christ is risen! With the dawn

The long night’s shadow fades away,

And once again above the earth

A new life’s lit by a new day.

Still darkly stand the forest groves,

Still in their damp and shady depth

The lakes like crystal mirrors lie,

Inhaling night’s refreshing breath.

But with each hour, as dawn draws near,

Descending from the rose-tipped peaks,

They will light up and spread their fire

Into the depth of woods and dells.

And they will dazzle with their beauty,

Proclaiming from their heights the reason –

That now has come the day of promise,

That Christ – our God – is truly risen!


 – Ivan Bunin

– Translated by Natalia Sheniloff







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