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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.


With laudatory voices the Roman country glorifies Peter and Paul, through whom it came to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God; Asia, Ephesus, Patmos glorify John the Theologian; India glorifies Thomas; Egypt glorifies Mark; all countries, and cities, and peoples honor and glorify each its own teacher who had brought them to the Orthodox faith.. Let us, too, make at least a small effort to glorify the one who did such great and wondrous things, our teacher and mentor, the great prince of our land – Vladimir, the grandson of old Igor.”

Thus spoke St. Hilarion, Metropolitan of Kiev, in mid-11th century, when only slightly more than half-a-century had passed from the baptism of Russia. Even at that time the saint already saw with his penetrating gaze the greatness of St. Vladimir’s work, and summoned all Russia to glorify him in a worthy manner. With what words and colors can the work done by St. Vladimir in baptizing Russia be expressed by us who have attained the millennium of this glorious event? Let us remember what Russia was like before Vladimir and what it became after being baptized by him.

Here is Russia in the time of “old Igor” or of Svyatoslav, Vladimir’s father. Each tribe lived its own isolated life. Individual clans often fought each other, brought revenge upon each other, and frequently engaged in mutual self-destruction, following the laws of bloody vengeance.

Russian princes before Vladimir were conquering leaders rather than fathers and benefactors of their people. Military campaigns and booty attracted them more than concern for their citizens. However, it would be wrong to think that the Slavs possessed only negative traits and were entirely a semi-barbaric crowd. On the contrary, there were many good qualities in their nature. They were hospitable, courageous, and honest. Wives were loyal mates to their husbands, often remaining faithful to those who died. The Slavs honored their elders and heeded their advice in matters both private and public. But at the same time they were capable of perfidy, cruelty, and craftiness. At times, especially in the course of battle, they became fearsome to those around them. The peaceful Slav became a wild beast. Woe unto them against whom was directed his fury, for he did not spare anyone! Even Byzantium trembled before its northern neighbors, while they themselves often feared each other.

Thus the world of Slavs stood at the crossroads of good and evil, at times exhibiting the wonderful qualities of men created in the image of God, at other times exhibiting the terrible signs of beasts in human form.

What lofty ideals could there be among the Slavs? To what could their feelings and thoughts be directed? What could inspire them and to what could they aspire?

The pagan gods whom they worshipped possessed all the traits of their worshippers, and were an epitome of both their good and bad qualities. The Slavs served the gods they themselves had thought up, thus confirming within themselves their own frailties and justifying them by their gods’ characteristics. While worshipping the terrible Perun, the Slavs engaged in cruel wars, exterminating their neighbors. It is hard to say what would have become of Eastern Europe had not Saints Cyril and Methodius illuminated the Slavs with the light of Christ and laid the foundation for the enlightenment of the Slavic peoples.

Saints Cyril and Methodius, together with their disciples, enlightened some of the Slavic people with the teaching of Christianity. The influence of Christianity soon made itself felt and brought these people into the family of Christian nations. In a short time the nations that became Christian were totally transformed. But the majority of Slavs – the eastern Slavs – continued to live as before. The darkness that hung over the eastern Slavic tribes was so thick and unrelieved that it could not be dispersed even by the first Russian Christian Princess Olga, who sat on the princely throne as a morning star in the sky. It needed the rising of the Beautiful Sun itself, which for Russia was personified by Olga’s grandson – the Great Prince Vladimir.

Having acquired the basic principles of the Christian faith from his grandmother, but having suppressed them by the raging of passions in his youth, Vladimir, severely shaken by the martyric death of the Varangian boyars Theodore and John, decides to change his way of life. After a meticulous examination of the issue of faith, Vladimir makes his choice. Being honest and straightforward by nature, he does not stay in the middle of the road, but chooses that which is best. He becomes enlightened by Orthodoxy and after being baptized becomes a fervent follower of Christ’s commandments. By his example he appeals to his subjects and they follow him. The change in Vladimir is also striking, as from a young man full of lust and unbridled passions he turns into a holy man.

But no less striking was the change that took place in the baptized Russia. The baptism of Kiev, with the rest of Russia following, opened up a new life for the eastern Slavs and became the foundation of their glorious history.

The divided Slavic tribes that made up Vladimir’s kingdom suddenly felt united after converting to Christianity. The feeling of unity was particularly strengthened by the fact that in clerical terms the entire Russia made up a single religious metropolis over the course of several centuries, despite the subsequent division of Russia into fiefdoms.

The Church had the greatest influence in uniting Russia into one nation. With the spreading of Orthodoxy among them, not only Slavic, but other tribes living in Eastern Europe merged into one with the Russian people. Acting as a peacemaker during internecine strife, the Church at the same time instilled the realization that the Russian people were one and must, therefore, be in all ways a single entity. Russia was formed under the tutelage of the Holy Orthodox Church, became strong and grew into a mighty nation covering one-sixth of the globe. The Russian people, having converted to Christianity of their own free will, from the very first years after baptism aspired to incorporate the teaching of the Gospel into their life. The baptism regenerated and internally changed the formerly coarse people. Retaining their previous good qualities, they now freed themselves of their bad traits. The battle between good and evil took place not only in Vladimir’s soul, but in the entire people, and a turning point for the good occurred. After their baptism the Russian people were no longer what they had been before. They truly became a “new people” of the Gospel.

This does not mean that everyone immediately became perfect, that evil disappeared from the soul of every person and no longer existed in Russia. Not at all! Evil continued to exist and continued its struggle with good in each person. However, Orthodoxy now became the moving force of the Russian people, enveloping all aspects of life – personal, social, and national. Both family and public life became permeated with the spirit of the Gospel; viewpoints were acquired under the influence of church rules, while government laws were created in agreement with the canons. The general life of the Russian people was now directed towards a search for God’s truth.

The striving to attain God’s truth permeated all the laws of the country, all executions of justice, and all government measures. The same striving to serve God marked the intellectual and the religious life of the Russian people. Almost all aspects of its cultural life arose from church life and developed under the influence of the Church.

Russian literature and the Russian arts originated in the monasteries and were so filled with the spirit of Christianity that its influence could not be shaken off even by those writers of later times, who had set themselves the task of combating Church teaching. Even the rulers themselves – the great princes and tsars of Russia – were aware of their responsibility to the King of Kings, and regarded themselves as servants of God, and appeared the same in the eyes of their subjects. For this reason Russian tsars were tsars not “by the will of the people,” but “by the grace of God.”

Of course, not everything in Russia fell in with this general trend. A great deal of evil was committed in it throughout the past centuries. If there is not a single person without sin, even more so can there not but be sin and evil in the history and life of a nation. However, just as a person is primarily characterized by the traits that are most vivid in him and overshadow others, so a nation is characterized by the main content of its spiritual life. For Russia and the Russian people, despite all past deviations and even falls, the main thing was service to truth and the standing in truth. When we think of ancient Greece, we remember the words of Apostle Paul: “The Hellenes seek wisdom.” The thought of Sparta is connected with the idea of physical excellence. Phoenicia has appended its name to commerce. Rome boasted of its great valor. But the Russian people have acquired the epithet of God-bearers and the Russian land that of Holy Russia.

Russia is holy for the multitude of saints it has produced. Beginning with the sons of St. Vladimir – the righteous princes Boris and Gleb, and from the baptizer of Russia himself – St. Vladimir, together with his holy grandmother Olga, an innumerable assembly of saints lived and shone with holiness and miracles in the Russian land. Those holy saints were flesh from flesh and bone from bone of the Russian people. They were not alien to the people in their beliefs and way of life, but were truly the most vivid expression of their people’s aspirations.

From the baptism of Russia and up to our own days there was not a single hour in which some saint or other did not live somewhere in the Russian land and after his death became an intercessor for Russia. All Russian provinces had their own spiritual laborers. Every place, every corner was sanctified by service to God. The history of Russia is the history of God’s work. The influence of Russia’s saints on its historical events is so great that it is impossible to separate the history of the Russian nation from the history of its Church. The customs and the way of life of the Russian people were permeated with religiousness. Even Russia’s foreign policy was in many ways an expression of its spiritual image.

So it used to be… But where are you now, Holy Russia? Or do you no longer exist? The throne of St. Vladimir has fallen, the sacred icons have been desecrated, the churches have been destroyed. How did the place of spiritual feats become the place of vile crimes, and where saints formerly attained salvation, gangsters now rule? Is Holy Russia no longer and will never be?

No! Holy Russia is not self-deception or an illusion, but true reality! The incense of the prayers of Russian saints continues to rise in the heavens, interceding for their land before the throne of God. However, it is not only in heaven, but also here, on our sinful earth, that Holy Russia continues to exist. The rule of the apostates has only subjugated, but not destroyed it. A foreign international power has placed a yoke on it, but remains its enemy. And Russia remains holy. Christ’s apostles did not become less holy when Judas fell away from them, and the brightness of the angelic host was not dimmed when Satan and his followers fell away from it.

Just as Satan had come out of the angelic host, but with the falling away of him and his followers the remaining angels became fired with even greater love for God and shone even brighter in heaven, so the apostates originated among the Russian people, but their falling away revealed the holiness of Russia even more clearly, and glorified Russia both in heaven and in the entire universe.

A countless assembly of new martyrs has confirmed its loyalty to Christ. The entire Russian people, with incredible patience bearing suffering the equal of which has never been experienced by any other people in the world, produced a great multitude of new confirmations of steadfastedness in faith. Despite the cruelest persecution, the Church remains invincible.

In the great assembly of God’s saints glorified in Russia, there have been many hierarchs, righteous ones, monastics, and fools-for-Christ. But in former times there had been very few martyrs. And now the time came to fill up the ranks of the heavenly Russian Church. To the small number of martyrs and passion-bearers of former centuries was now added a countless number of new martyrs. Among them were the Tsar with his entire family, hierarchs, princes, soldiers, priests, monastics, learned men and illiterates, city-dwellers and peasants, aristocrats and commoners. All ages, all classes, all regions of Russia gave new martyrs. All of Russia was flooded with the blood of martyrs, was sanctified by it.

O wondrous and glorious army of new martyrs! Who can honor you in a worthy manner! Blessed are thou, O Russian land, purified by the fire of suffering! Shake off your despondency and indolence, sons of Russia! Gaze at the glory of its suffering and purify yourselves, cleanse yourselves of your sins! Fortify yourselves in the Orthodox faith, in order to be worthy of residing in the abode of the Lord and of dwelling in His holy mount!

Saint John of Shanghai





Even in Old Testament times it was already known that the rule of a king was blessed by God. On February 21, 1613 a great church and land Assembly was held in Russia, at which the first Russian tsar of the Romanov dynasty was chosen and blessed. The Assembly decreed that “the elected of God, Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov, should be the progenitor of all rulers of Russia, from generation unto generation, responsible for his actions solely to the heavenly King, and whoever goes against this decree – be he king, patriarch, or any person whatsoever, – may such a person be damned in this life and in the next, for he shall be excommunicated from the Holy Trinity.”

Emperor Nicholas Aleksandrovich Romanov was the last monarch in Russia, anointed with holy myrrh before stepping onto the throne.. The Tsar – the anointed of God, a holy person, carrier of the special grace of the Holy Spirit, was murdered in the night of July 4, 1918.

In such a manner was violated the oath of 1613, which tied not only our ancestors who had composed the decree, but all of us – their descendants – to the tsars of the Romanov dynasty.

By violating the oath in not defending their Tsar, the people fell under damnation and excommunication from the Holy Spirit. Nothing can be worse than that! A great sin merits great punishment. In that bitter hour the holy Patriarch Tikhon said: “In accordance with the teaching of the word of God we must condemn this deed, else the blood of the murdered one will fall upon us too, and not only on those who had committed the deed.”

St John (Maximovich) wrote: “It is a great sin to raise a hand against an anointed of God, and even the slightest participation in such a sin will not remain unavenged. In sorrow we say: ‘His blood is upon us and our children,’ for it is not only the physical executors of the deed who are guilty of the sin of regicide, but the entire people, who rejoiced when the Tsar was dethroned and who allowed his humiliation, arrest, and exile, leaving him defenseless in the hands of criminals, which of itself predetermined the end. Let us remember that the iniquity was committed on the day of commemoration of St. Andrew of Crete, creator of the Great Canon which calls us to repentance. A deep realization of the sinfulness of the deed and repentance before the memory of the Tsar-Martyr is required of us. But our repentance must be without any self-justification, without any reservation, with a condemnation of ourselves and of the entire evil deed from its very beginning.”

On a par with holy Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky, holy Prince Mikhail of Tver, and holy Prince Dimitri of Uglich, the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and his long-suffering family joined the ranks of Russian passion-bearers. All of Russia should bow down before him who was humiliated, vilified, and murdered, so that in glorifying his martyrdom we can atone for the crime committed against him.

Just as Christ, crucified on Golgotha for the sins of the entire world, was abandoned by all, so our Tsar was sacrificed for the sins of all Russia and was also left defenseless in the hands of the Bolsheviks. This was the day when the Church commemorates the Russian Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky, heinously murdered by conspirators in 1174. Both then and now, many examples convince us that there exists a mighty and terrible secret power that has set itself the goal of destroying religion.

Apostle Paul wrote: “For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work; only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thes. 2:7).

The Tsar was murdered, and from that time on the “mystery of lawlessness” gained freedom. We are all witnesses to the unrestrained spread of evil throughout the entire world.

The Bolshevik Lunacharsky declared in 1923 that from the Bolsheviks’ point of view every person who believes in God is a counter-revolutionary, because he hinders them in building a kingdom on earth. They hurriedly proceeded to clear away a space for establishing this very kingdom. Churches were destroyed, icons were burned, and five-pointed stars were set up everywhere. While throwing churches, crosses, and domes down to the ground, they furnished the entire Russian land with thousands of bronze busts, prepared for the glorification of new idols. The Russian people found themselves in a world turned upside down, and decided that so it must be. In such a manner our grandparents and our parents lived out their lives. So we continue to live too, thinking that everything is as it should be, that the turning of rivers, Chernobyl, the death of Russian soldiers in Afghanistan and Chechnya, narcotics, the boring exchange of one set of political idols for another, the placement of material wealth above divine ideals are all natural events.

We justify our atheism by the fact that for seventy years we have not been taught anything religious, anything related to the church. But let us not engage in self-justification, since it has long been time for us to ask God forgiveness for our godless life, it has long been time to thank God for our still being alive, for being able to repent of our sins, for being able to change.

The mortal sin of regicide hangs over our people, and, consequently, in some measure or other, hangs over each one of us. St. John of Kronstadt said in 1905: “If the Russian people do not repent, the end of the world is near.”

In 1981 the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad canonized the holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas among other Russian New Martyrs.

In order to have hope that the sin of regicide will be deleted from Russia’s conscience, it is necessary for us, besides our personal repentance and prayers to God for forgiveness, to summon the help of the Tsar-Martyr: “O holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and all the New Martyrs of the Russian land, pray to God for us sinners.”

We believe that the bright soul of the Tsar will bow down before the throne of God and will pray for the salvation of Russia and for us sinners. Everything is possible for God! He has the power to turn sorrow into joy and to resurrect the holy Orthodox Russia. Amen.






The Transfiguration is the visual manifestation of God’s Kingdom on earth. Shortly before His suffering on the cross, Jesus Christ, taking along with Him three of His disciples – John, James, and Peter, left Capernaum and went north towards Mount Tabor, which rose like a citadel above the hills of Galilee. The disciples were silent, having a presentiment that a mystery would be revealed to them. Mystic events take place in silence. The human word bears the same relation to mysticism as a wave to the depth of the ocean.

On Mt. Tabor the apostles saw the divine Transfiguration of Christ, the manifestation of His majesty and glory. The Saviour’s face became like lightning, His raiment – white as snow. He stood encircled by shining brilliance, as though amid the rays of the sun. Two prophets – Moses and Elias – appeared before the Saviour and conversed with Him. Interpreters of Holy Scripture say that they talked of the sacrifice on Golgotha, of Christ’s forthcoming suffering, of the fact that mankind’s sins would be redeemed by the blood of the Son of God and Saviour.

The three apostles experienced the manifestation of the Divine Light as a great and incomparable joy. It seemed that time itself stood in the contemplation of the Divine Light. The awed apostles fell to the ground. The vision ended. Together with Jesus Christ they came down from the mountain and by morning were back in Capernaum.

The Lord not only preached His Gospel to the people, but also educated and enlightened His disciples. And gradually He revealed Himself to them as the Messiah not only of Israel, but of all mankind, as the King of the eternal spiritual kingdom. The Messiah’s words that He would be tortured in Jerusalem evoked awe and fear in the disciples. A vision of the crucified Messiah might have evoked a feeling of despair in Christ’s disciples, the thought that everything was irrevocably lost. The mystery of redemption could have appeared to them as a defeat, as the Messiah’s powerlessness. At a time of despondency and doubt, the three apostles’ witness to the Transfiguration was to strengthen the faith of the other disciples.

What constitutes the mystery of Christianity? It attracts people not so much by its delicate and sophisticated intellectualism, nor by the brilliant oratory of its preachers, nor yet by the beauty of its rites. Christianity revealed to the human soul a new world, an eternal world, a world of divine light – that which not a single religion or philosophical system could give.

“And after six days Jesus taketh with Him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart from themselves: and He was transfigured before them. And His raiment became shining, exceedingly white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus” (Mark 9:2-4).

Together with Christ, three apostles – Peter, James, and John – ascended Mt. Tabor, where the Lord’s Transfiguration took place. It was accompanied by the appearance of the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elias. They spoke with Christ about His imminent departure from earth to rejoin God the Father. The Gospel then speaks of how all of them were overshadowed by a bright cloud, out of which a voice issued, saying: “This is My beloved Son; hear Him.”

The Lord did not ascend the mountain alone, but took three disciples with Him. On Mt. Tabor their eyes were opened to a different, spiritual world, and they were able to see the Light which transfigured Christ. After that the Saviour spoke for the first time about His martyric end and resurrection. At that time the apostles did not understand Him, because in accordance with Jewish tradition they saw Christ as a future earthly king and liberator from foreign domination. Christ, however, was preparing for His suffering on the cross and the humiliation of Golgotha, and He showed His Transfiguration to the three disciples, so that they would be able to bear witness to His divine nature and voluntary agreement to torment on the cross.

The essence of the Transfiguration is revealed in its symbols. The mountain is a silent, solitary place which makes it easier to engage in prayer and helps us unite our restless mind with God. The name “Tabor” translates as purity or light. Whoever comes to an awareness of his actions and repents of what he has committed is freed of spiritual uncleanliness and is able to see the divine uncreated Light. Christian teaching sees the spiritual meaning of life precisely in the attempt to acquire this Light and deify human nature.


Why are fruits blessed in church on Transfiguration?


From apostolic times the Church established the custom to bless ripened fruits before eating them, by reading special prayers over them.

In the beginning all the works of God’s creation were good indeed, because God’s blessing rested upon them through His omnipotent words: “Let it be.” At that time everything stayed on earth without requiring special sanctification. But the first-created man transgressed the law of God and allowed impurity to fill his entire being, and through him this impurity descended upon all living things. God’s curse hung over all of man’s efforts, according to the Lord’s words to Adam: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake” (Gen. 3:17). Subordinate creation, as the Apostle testifies, “was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected it” (Rom. 8:12), i.e. all living things were defiled because of man. Subordinate nature, which in accordance with the Creator’s design should have provided its master – man – with physical means of bliss, this same nature became the source of his illness and death. All the elements declared war on man for having subjected them to vanity, all earthly plants now contained admixtures or even poisons that were harmful to man’s body. Such were the inevitable consequences of God’s curse, which hung over all of man’s deeds from the day of Adam’s transgression. Such is the terrible necessary connection between our sin and everything with which it comes into contact.

And what would have happened to us and our surrounding environment, had not our most-merciful Lord Jesus Christ removed the terrible seal of our rejection and given us the means to return blessing and sanctification to everything we use? Therefore, only those who truly believe in Christ the Saviour can overcome the forces of nature that war against us. The Holy Church blesses and sanctifies the first crop of earthly fruits and, removing from them the ancient seal of damnation, turns these fruits not into a weapon of our sinful lusts, not into food of corruption and death, but into a true pleasure for man reborn in grace.

The Church prays to God to sanctify both the souls and the bodies of those who eat of these fruits, to keep their lives in peace and joy, and to multiply these fruits abundantly. Christ’s Church blesses and sanctifies the fruits by the holy name of God glorified in Trinity and by sprinkling holy water upon them.

According to ancient tradition, the first fruits are blessed on the feast of Transfiguration.






Comforting truths inherent in the feast of the Dormition


Blessed is God for having granted us this great day, in which from ancient times and with triumphant hymns the universal Church accompanies heavenward into supreme Zion the incorruptible body of the Mother of God together with Her soul, and allows us to take pleasure in the spiritual fragrance of Her indescribable holiness and in all the virtues with which She was endowed by the Holy Spirit and by the Son of God, Who had issued from Her by taking on human nature! With what tenderness, joy, and piety did the apostles and all the other elect enjoy the wondrous vision of the reposing Theotokos’ visage, all shining with heavenly light, and the indescribable heavenly fragrance of Her God-bearing body, and the contemplation of the brightest visage of Her Son and God, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who had come to take His holy Mother’s soul into His hands! O, this was a celestial vision on earth, never seen before! Even the heavenly angels were visibly present here together with their King and Master. Only three days did the Most-pure body of the Theotokos, buried by the apostles in Gethsemane, remain in the tomb, only three days did it stay there, and afterwards it was resurrected by the Lord and united with Her soul, and She was taken up together with Her body into heaven. For only three days was She fated to repose in the sleep of death, just as the Lord Himself remained in His tomb for three days and afterwards arose to confirm the universal resurrection of mankind. Death, having been vanquished by the resurrected Christ, became for the faithful a dormition, a passage, a step towards immortality and eternal life, provided we die in faith, repentance, and virtue.

Let us venerate the Most-glorious Mother of God, higher than the heavens and purer than sunlight, Who delivered mankind from its curse, i.e. from God’s damnation. But what exactly is God’s curse? It is the consequence of God’s righteous wrath upon criminal, sinful mankind, so ungrateful to its Creator and Benefactor, for which it had been deprived of God’s mercy, eternally rejected from the face of God, condemned to the eternal torment of hell or to eternal death with the fallen angels, the evil spirits. Eve, our foremother, was responsible for this damnation together with Adam through the sin of disobedience – and even to this day its consequences continue to overshadow sinners who do not know God, their Saviour. But the Theotokos, through Her humility, obedience, meekness, God-like purity, acceptance of the Archangel’s tidings, and above all through Her wondrous bearing of the Son of God in Her womb, attracted God’s blessing upon the world by giving birth to the Saviour of the world and obtaining the benevolence of the Heavenly Father towards all the faithful. Another consequence of God’s damnation of mankind was death, but Christ, the Son of God, Who was born of the Theotokos in flesh, Who suffered and died for the sins of mankind, took upon Himself our damnation, vanquished our death by His death, and removed the curse from us by crucifying our sins on the cross and granting us incorruptibility, resurrection, and immortality.

Such are the comforting truths which the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos brings us: it assures us that Christ the Saviour, born from the Most-pure Virgin Mary, removed from us the curse of our sins and granted to all of us resurrection from the dead on the last day of the world. Is this not comforting for every Christian believer?

And having such an expectation of a general resurrection from the dead, let us try throughout our entire life to become worthy of the glorious resurrection into eternal life by means of constant repentance, battle with our passions and the temptations of the flesh and the world, and strive for success in all virtues, in order to eternally enjoy the infinite, incorruptible, surpassing all understanding, all feeling and all expectation – the blessings of the Heavenly Kingdom, together with God, the Mother of God, the holy angels, and all the saints. Amen.


St. John of Kronstadt






On July 24th (the 11th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the holy equal-to-the-apostles Princess Olga of Russia.

Church history shows us how wonderful and significant was the participation of some holy women, the elect of God, in the spreading of Christianity among pagans. It suffices to mention St. Mary Magdalene, equal-to-the-apostles, and the holy myrrh-bearing women, who were chosen by God to be the first messengers of Christ’s glorious Resurrection; the holy equal-to-the-apostles Queen Elena in the former Greek kingdom; Saint Nina in Georgia; Saint Ludmila among the western Slavs. The Russian land also has its equal-to-the apostles saint – blessed Olga, grandmother of the enlightener of Russia – holy Prince Vladimir. Saint Olga was born in the region which later became known as the city of Pskov. Without yet knowing the true God, Olga was distinguished by bright and profound intelligence and by strict chastity (a virtue totally unknown among the pagans). The Prince of Russia Igor, who greatly loved hunting, met her by chance in the Pskovian forests and was so amazed by her wise discourse, as well as by her beauty, that he took her for his wife. After Igor’s death, Olga governed the Russian land by herself. She strictly punished the Drevlyanians, a tribe which had perfidiously killed her husband, and was fearsome to the enemies of her homeland, while her people loved and respected her as a mother for her wisdom and justice. She never offended anyone, judged fairly, tempered punishment with mercy, loved the poor, the aged, and the handicapped; she carefully heard out everyone who came to her with a plea and willingly fulfilled all fair requests. When her son Svyatoslav, who was a 4-year-old child when his father died, grew up, she handed the reins of government over to him, in order to have more time for works of charity.

Such a virtuous life attracted God’s grace to her: with each day it became clearer and clearer to her that only senseless people can look upon soulless idols as gods. During Olga’s rule there were already some Christians in Kiev, but only a small number of them. She apparently knew them; talks with them completely revealed to her the holiness of Christ’s teaching, and in her heart she became a Christian, but she felt that it was unsafe for her to become baptized in Kiev, which was filled with pagans. Thus, hearing that the faith of Christ had come to Russia from the Greeks, the wise Olga wished to visit that country herself. Taking with her a small company of noblemen and relatives, she arrived in Constantinople and presented herself to Patriarch Polyeuctus. The Patriarch took a genuine fatherly interest in the Russian princess. Olga remained in Constantinople for three months, studying the Christian faith under the guidance of the Patriarch himself. She attended church daily; the beauty of the churches, the harmonious singing, the ceremony of the services – all of this made a great impression on her soul and her heart. Finally the Lord fulfilled her ardent wish: Olga was enlightened with holy baptism and given the name of Elena in honor of the equal-to-the-apostles queen. Her godfather was the Greek Emperor Constantine himself. During the divine liturgy the Patriarch turned to her with the following words: “Blessed art thou among Russian women for having embraced the true light and having rejected darkness! Thou hast thus avoided eternal death and hast found eternal life. From this time onward thou shalt be magnified by all the sons of the Russian land!” These words were prophetic. Many of those who came together with Olga were also baptized, and there was great joy not only in the Russian family, but in all of Constantinople. As Olga prepared to return to her homeland, the Patriarch blessed her with a holy cross containing particles of the Live-giving Cross of the Lord. The Patriarch also instructed several clergymen to travel to Russia together with Olga, in order to perform church services there.

After arriving in Kiev, Princess Olga earnestly began propagating the faith of Christ in her native land. She converted many Kievans to Christianity and built for them a church in honor of St. Nicholas on the burial place of Askold, one of the founders of Kiev. The church of St. Sophia, initially a wooden one, was also built by her. Afterwards St. Olga visited Great Novgorod and other regions of her country. With sermons, and instructions, and the grace of God she converted many compatriots to Christianity, and trampling upon the idols, in their place she set up holy crosses, which produced many great miracles and signs, shaming unbelievers.

One thing did not cease to be a cause of great sorrow for blessed Olga – her son Svyatoslav did not even wish to hear anything about Christianity. “I have come to know the true God, my son, – his holy mother told him, – I have come to know Him and to rejoice. If you come to know Him, you too will rejoice. The Christian faith brings light and joy to the soul; it so affects a man’s soul, that he himself feels its divine worth; accept this faith – and not only will you not be sorry, but you will believe yourself to be the happiest of men, just as I feel myself to be the happiest among all people.” But the proud son responded thus to his mother’s wise advice: “How can I accept a foreign law? My comrades-in-arms will laugh at me.” And not only did he not heed his mother, but he often offended her. He loved military glory and feats, and constantly left his land, traveling with his company beyond the Danube River or to other places. Seeing the prince’s disregard for the Christian faith, his soldiers and noblemen often humiliated the Christians and even put them to death unjustly. How difficult it was for blessed Olga to look upon this! But she endured everything, constantly praying and hoping for God’s mercy in the future. Saint Olga’s grandsons, the children of Svyatoslav – Yaropolk, Oleg, and Vladimir, were almost constantly in her care due to their father’s absence, and she earnestly taught them the Christian faith, but refrained from baptizing them without their father’s approval. Therefore, she placed all her hope in the Lord, and awaited His benevolence towards her family and her people. And the Lord fulfilled the ardent prayers of the humble Russian princess: one of her grandsons, Vladimir, enlightened Russia with holy baptism.

Having lived until a ripe old age, Olga was struck by a mortal illness. Svytoslav was away as usual, but hurriedly came back to see his mother, whom he found on her deathbed. The dying mother tried one last time to talk her son into abandoning destructive idol-worshipping and converting to Christ, but even now the unfortunate son did not listen to her and was punished by a sudden and shameful death – just as his mother had foretold him.

Blessed Olga’s death was quiet and peaceful. After receiving holy communion, she peacefully reposed on July 11, 969. All the Kievans cried over her – both Christians and pagans. Her body was buried with honor in the city of Kiev. The venerable chronicler Nestor, completing his narrative about Olga, writes: “She preceded Christianity in our land as dawn comes before the sun, as the moon shines in the night – thus she shone among unbelievers. The sons of Russia glorify her as a chieftain leading them into the Heavenly Realm. Even after her death she prays to God for Russia!”




August 5th (July 23rd by the old calendar) marks the feast of the Pochayev icon of the Mother of God.

The history of this miraculous icon is inseparably tied with the Pochayev Monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Theotokos, which is located in the southwest of Russia. The monastery was founded back in the 13th century and flourished in the late 16th / early 17th centuries.

The miraculous image of the Holy Theotokos called the Pochayev icon was received as a gift from the Greek metropolitan Neophyte, who stopped at the home of a certain Goyskaya, mistress of a large estate, on his way to Moscow in 1559. For 30 years the icon stood in the landowner’s chapel before it was noticed that an extraordinary light was issuing from the image. After Goyskaya’s brother, Philip Kozinskiy, who was born blind, was miraculously healed by the icon, the pious landowner gave the sacred relic to the monks of the Pochayev monastery. The icon was then carried over to Pochayev in a ceremonious procession.

The small icon depicts the Mother of God with the Pre-eternal Infant on Her right arm. In Her left hand She holds a towel with which the Infant Jesus was covered. The Lord has His left hand placed on His Mother’s shoulder, while His right hand is raised in blessing; the Mother of God’s face is inclined towards Her Son’s head. There are seven miniature images of saints depicted on the sides of the icon: the prophet Elias, martyr Menas, protomartyr Stephen, venerable Abrahamus, great-martyr Catherine, martyr Paraskeva, and martyr Irene. The “Book of Records of Pochayev Miracles” reports a multitude of healings after prayer to the Most-holy Theotokos, sent through Her Pochayev icon.

For four centuries the Heavenly Queen also granted Her all-powerful aid to the Pochayev monastery. Thus, in the summer of 1675, the Turkish troops of khan Nurredin besieged the Pochayev Lavra on three sides. The weak monastery wall did not represent a serious barrier. The monks and the laymen who had sought sanctuary in the monastery fearfully awaited the beginning of the attack. The abbot of the monastery summoned all the Orthodox faithful to appeal for help to their heavenly intercessors – the Holy Virgin and St. Job of Pochayev. Throughout the entire night the besieged people earnestly prayed before the miraculous icon and the tomb with the relics of the saint. In the morning of July 23rd, when the sun came up, they started to sing an akathist to the Mother of God. At the words “Champion Leader” a wondrous miracle occurred. The Holy Theotokos Herself appeared over the monastery church, together with a multitude of angels holding unsheathed swords. St. Job stood next to the Mother of God and entreated Her to defend his monastery. Seeing the celestial troops, the Turks took them for a phantom and began shooting arrows at the Queen of Heaven and the angels. But the arrows came back to them and struck the infidels. Then the Turkish army became greatly agitated, the soldiers started killing each other, and afterwards began fleeing in panic. The defenders of the monastery were able to capture many of them. Some of the Turks were subsequently baptized and remained in the Pochayev Lavra for good. Later an annual celebration in honor of the Pochayev icon of the Theotokos was established to commemorate the miraculous deliverance on July 23rd by our Intercessor and Helper in all sorrows.






An Orthodox Christian understanding of unidentified flying objects (UFOs)




The Six Kinds of UFO Encounters


Dr. Hynek, who has studied the question more thoroughly than any other distinguished scientist, has conveniently divided UFO phenomena into six general categories. The first, “Nocturnal Lights,” is the one most commonly reported and the least strange of all. Most such reports are easily explained as heavenly bodies, meteors, etc. and are not considered UFOs. Truly puzzling Nocturnal Lights (those that remain unidentified), which seem to display intelligent action but are not explainable as ordinary aircraft, are often seen by multiple witnesses, including police officers, airplane pilots, and airport tower operators.

The second category of UFOs is “Daylight Discs,” whose behavior is close to that of Nocturnal Lights. These are the original “flying saucers,” and in fact almost all of the unidentified sightings in this category are of discs which vary in shape from circular to cigar-shaped. They are often metallic in appearance, and are reported as capable of extremely rapid starts and stops and high speed, as well as maneuvers (such as sudden reversals of direction and motionless hovering) that are beyond the capacity of any present aircraft. There are many purported photographs of such discs, but none of them is very convincing owing to the distance involved and the possibility of trick photography. Like Nocturnal Lights, UFOs in this category are almost always reported as being totally noiseless, and sometimes two or more of them are seen.

The third category is that of “Radar-Visual” reports – that is, radar sightings that are confirmed by independent visual observation (radar by itself being subject to various kinds of misperceptions). Most of these cases occur at night, and the best cases involve simultaneous sightings by airplanes (sometimes purposely dispatched to follow the UFO) at fairly close range; in these cases the UFO always outmaneuvers the airplane, sometimes following it, and finally disappears in a burst of speed (up to 4000 miles and more per hour). Sometimes, as in categories 1 and 2 also, the object seems to divide and become two or more distinct objects; and sometimes clear visual sightings of such objects by pilots in the air are not picked up by radar at all. Sightings in this category, just as in the first two, last from between a few minutes to several hours.

A number of cases in the first three categories are well documented, with numerous reliable, experienced, and independent witnesses. Still, any one case, as Dr. Hynek notes, might be caused by some extremely unusual set of circumstances and not by some new and totally unknown phenomenon. But when many well-documented cases, all similar to each other, accumulate, the chance that they are all unusual misperceptions of familiar objects becomes very small. This is why serious UFO investigators are now concentrating on the collection of a number of well-documented cases, and the comparison of numbers of reliable testimonies already begins to show definite patterns of UFO activity.

The emotional response of those who have witnessed UFOs of the first three categories is one of simple perplexity and puzzlement; they have seen something whose behavior seems totally inexplicable, and they are left with a tantalizing desire to see it “just a little closer.” Only in a few cases – generally involving pilots who have tried to pursue the unidentified objects – has something like real fear been experienced at the encounters with something that seemed intelligently directed and possessing a technology in advance of anything known today. In cases involving “Close Encounters,” on the other hand, the human response becomes much deeper and the psychic side of the phenomena more pronounced.

“Close Encounters of the First Kind” (CE-1) are sightings of a luminous object at close range (about 500 feet or less), the light being sometimes very bright and casting luminescence on the ground below. When the shape of the object is described, it is generally stated to be oval, sometimes with a dome on top, and the lights are often described as rotating, usually in a counterclockwise direction. The objects often hover close to the ground, without sound or (occasionally) with a humming sound, sometimes moving close to the ground over considerable distances, and eventually taking off extremely rapidly, soundlessly, and usually straight up. There are numerous multiple-witness accounts of such “Close Encounters”; these accounts are invariably quite similar to each other, as though it is indeed one and the same object (or similar objects) that is being observed in all well-documented cases. Typically, these cases occur at night in sparsely settled areas, and there are a small number of witnesses for each sighting (an average of three to four in the cases examined by Dr. Hynek).

“Close Encounters of the First Kind” are always awesome and often frightening, but leave no visible marks; witnesses are usually so overwhelmed by the experience that they neglect to take photographs of the object even when a camera is nearby. Typical of the effect on witnesses is this comment in a 1955 UFO report: “I can assure you, once anyone has seen an object such as this so closely and for a period of even one minute, it would be etched in their memory for all time.” The experience is so unusual that witnesses are often not believed when they report it – a fact that causes many to report it only confidentially, after many years, or not at all. The experience is intensely real to those who experience it – but largely unbelievable to others.

A typical “Close Encounter of the First Kind” involved two Portage County, Ohio, deputy sheriffs in 1966. About 5 a.m. on the morning of April 16, after stopping to investigate a parked car on a country road, they saw an object “as big as a house” ascending to tree-top level (about 100 feet). As it approached the deputies it became increasingly bright, illuminating the area all around, then stopped and hovered over them with a humming sound. When it moved away they pursued it for some 70 miles into Pennsylvania, at speeds of up to 105 miles per hour. Two other police officers saw the object clearly at a higher elevation before it went straight up and disappeared about dawn. Congressional pressure forced “Project Blue Book” to investigate this case; it was “explained” as an “observation of Venus,” and the officers who saw it were subjected to considerable ridicule in the press, leading to the breakup of one officer’s family and the ruin of his health and career. Personal tragedies of this kind among people who have “Close Encounters” with UFOs are so common that they should definitely be included in the typical characteristics of this phenomenon.


(To be continued)


Father Seraphim (Rose)


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










He is alive,

He gazes down upon us,

He calls us with his heavenly voice,

Our conscience yearning to awaken…

Calmly He bore his cross,

So bloody and so cruel,

And our native land

From bloodshed he can free…

He is alive,

He waits,

He calls,

He calls and pleads for our tears…

With his myrrh-streaming icon

He sends a message to us here

From the divine heights

Of the Heavenly King…

He, earthly king,

Loving us even now,

Together with his holy Family

Offers holiness to us…

Will we respond to Him?

And to his Family…and to God?





Or shall we continue,

Drowsily passing by,

To yawn and languish —

While having such a mighty intercessor

Before the throne of the Eternal King?


— Deacon Andre Rudenko







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