Having recently rediscovered, or shall we say discovered, my Russian Orthodoxy, I am about to embark on my first Uspenskii Post which lasts two weeks starting today and ending on the 28th. I will be doing a very basic “post”, just cutting out all sugar/sweets and meat.
Some facts on the ROC thanks to Wikipedia:
-The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world. Including all the autocephalous churches under its supervision, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide — about half of the 300 million estimated adherents of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
-The Christian community that became the Russian Orthodox Church is traditionally said to have been founded by the Apostle Andrew, who is thought to have visited Scythia and Greek colonies along the northern coast of the Black Sea. According to one of the legends, Andrew reached the future location of Kiev and foretold the foundation of a great Christian city. The spot where he reportedly erected a cross is now marked by St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
-As a result of the Christianization of Kievan Rus’ in 988, Prince Vladimir I of Kiev officially adopted Byzantine Rite Christianity — the religion of the Eastern Roman Empire — as the state religion of Kievan Rus’. This date is often considered the official birthday of the Russian Orthodox Church. Thus, in 1988, the Church celebrated its millennial anniversary. It therefore traces its apostolic succession through the Patriarch of Constantinople.
-Monastic life flourished in Russia, focusing on prayer and spiritual growth. The disciples of St. Sergius left the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra to found hundreds of monasteries across Russia. Some of the most famous monasteries were located in the Russian North, even as far north as Pechenga, in order to demonstrate how faith could flourish even in countries that weren’t too hospitable. The richest landowners of medieval Russia included Joseph Volokolamsk Monastery, Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery and the Solovetsky Monastery. In the 18th century, the three greatest monasteries were recognized as lavras, while those subordinated directly to the Synod were labelled stauropegic.
-During the Schism of the Russian Church, the Old Ritualists were separated from the main body of the Orthodox Church. Archpriest Avvakum Petrov and many other opponents of the church reforms were burned at the stake, either forcibly or voluntarily. Another prominent figure within the Old Ritualists’ movement, Boyarynya Morozova, was starved to death in 1675. Others escaped from the government persecutions to Siberia and other inhospitable lands, where they would live in semi-seclusion until modern times
-The year 1917 was a major turning point in Russian history, and also the Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian empire was dissolved and the Tsarist government – which had granted the Church numerous privileges – was overthrown. After a few months of political turmoil, the Bolsheviks took power in October 1917 and declared a separation of church and state. Thus the Russian Orthodox Church found itself without official state backing for the first time in its history. One of the first decrees of the new Communist government (issued in January 1918) declared freedom from “religious and anti-religious propaganda”. This led to a marked decline in the power and influence of the Church. The Church was also caught in the crossfire of the Russian Civil War that began later the same year, and many leaders of the Church supported what would ultimately turn out to be the losing side (the White movement).
-The Soviet Union was the first state to have elimination of religion as an ideological objective. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed. Orthodox priests and believers were variously tortured, sent to prison camps, labour camps or mental hospitals, and executed. Many Orthodox (along with people of other faiths) were also subjected to psychological punishment or torture and mind control experimentation in order to force them give up their religious convictions.
-Some Orthodox believers and even priests took part in the dissident movement and became prisoners of conscience. The Orthodox priests Gleb Yakunin, Sergiy Zheludkov and others spent years in Soviet prisons and exile for their efforts in defending freedom of worship. Among the prominent figures of that time were Father Dmitri Dudko and Father Aleksandr Men. Although he tried to keep away from practical work of the dissident movement intending to better fulfil his calling as a priest, there was a spiritual link between Fr Aleksander and many of the dissidents. For some of them he was a friend, for others – a godfather, for many (including Yakunin) – spiritual father.
-Many Russian Orthodox Church buildings differ in design from many modern-type churches. Firstly, their interiors are enriched with many sacramental objects including holy icons, which are hung on the walls. In addition, murals often cover most of the interior. Some of these images represent Mary, the mother of Christ – the Theotokos – (who is particularly revered in the Russian Orthodox Church), saints, and scenes from their lives. Russian Orthodox Church architecture tends to be very “vertical” – much higher than it is wide – to draw the believer’s attention up towards God rather than towards the things of the world.